A new report by Farm Renewables Consulting and Progressive Agriculture has shown Australia’s potential for agrivoltaics, which refers to co-locating agricultural production systems with solar developments.
However, the report emphasised the need for better planning, more research, and targeted government policy to make these options work for local farmers.
The Pursuing an Agrivoltaic Future in Australia report gathered perspectives on the problems and potential of agriculture and solar advances from farmers, government representatives, consultants, researchers, and solar developers. EnergyCo was a critical collaborator in the delivery of two workshops that contributed to the knowledge-gathering process.
Because of knowledge gaps, technical and economic constraints, inadequate planning, and a lack of clear policy guidance at the development stage, the authors discovered that agrivoltaic uptake has been slow.
“I found there was considerable optimism for the feasibility of agrivoltaics in Australia, but change is required to ensure future solar developments are undertaken in a way that guarantees successful outcomes,” Farm Renewables Consulting Director and report co-author Karin Stark said.
Stark noted that international studies show that solar energy can improve crop yields, particularly in produce like berries, tomatoes, and leafy greens.
“Solar over vineyards has also demonstrated benefits to the sugar and alcohol content of grapes given the fruit’s sensitivity to hot weather. Overseas research has indicated advantages including increased soil moisture, reduced irrigation demands, protection from excessive heat, and safeguarding against frost and hail damage,” Stark added.
Progressive Agriculture consultant and report co-author Andrew Bomm said, “Solar grazing can have clear economic benefits for both solar developers and graziers, and play an important role in achieving community support for large scale solar development in rural areas.”
“One key insight that came out loud and clear was that solar grazing systems require adequate planning and design prior to construction to avoid major problems later.”
The report emphasises the necessity of research and demonstration sites, supportive policies, and knowledge sharing to significantly promote the adoption of agrivoltaics in Australia.
The report recommends the Australian Government provide funding for developing best practice guidelines for successful agrivoltaics adoption, collaborate with the renewables industry to co-invest in research, and develop a coherent framework of carbon and biodiversity incentives to maximise adoption across broadacre and horticultural systems. It also suggests an intergovernmental agreement between Commonwealth and State Governments to ensure consistency across Energy and Agricultural agencies.