How Can Agrivoltaics Resolve the Energy vs. Agriculture Dilemma?

business man  engineer using laptop at solar panels plant eco energy field  in backgroundThe convergence of agriculture and renewable energy is an emerging paradigm in sustainable development. In recent years, agrivoltaics, combining solar power with agricultural activities, has gained significant traction.

This innovative approach promises to optimize land use, enhance food security, and contribute to renewable energy goals. Integrating agricultural, forage, and livestock production systems within utility-scale solar farms exemplifies this synergy, showcasing recent projects, innovations, and investments driving the field forward.

According to BIS Research, the agrivoltaics market is expected to reach $15.87 billion by 2033, from the market size of $2.01 billion in 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.93% during the forecast period.

The Concept of Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics involves strategically placing solar panels above or among crops, grazing lands, or forage areas. This dual use of land addresses the growing competition between agricultural needs and renewable energy expansion. By harmonizing these two critical sectors, agrivoltaics maximizes land productivity, increases economic returns for farmers, and reduces the environmental footprint of solar farms.

Recent Agrivoltaics Projects and Innovations

Several recent projects exemplify the practical application and benefits of agrivoltaics, highlighting innovative approaches and significant investments.

Jack's Solar Garden - Colorado, USA

Jack's Solar Garden in Boulder County, Colorado, is one of the most notable agrivoltaic projects in the United States. This 1.2 MW solar farm integrates various crops, including leafy greens, root vegetables, and berries, beneath and around solar panels. The project collaborates with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and local universities to study the effects of solar shading on crop yields and microclimates. Early results indicate that certain crops benefit from the partial shading provided by solar panels, which helps reduce water evaporation and mitigate heat stress.

Fraunhofer ISE - Germany

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) has pioneered agrivoltaics in Germany. Their project in Heggelbach combines a 194 kW solar system with organic farming practices. The solar panels are elevated three to five meters above the ground, allowing for traditional farming activities below. Initial findings suggest that agrivoltaics can maintain and, in some cases, even increase crop yields while producing clean energy. This project has garnered attention and funding from both the German government and the European Union, emphasizing its potential as a model for sustainable agriculture and energy production.

The Agrophotovoltaic (APV) Project - Kenya

In arid regions like Kenya, agrivoltaics offers a promising solution to water scarcity and food security challenges. The Agrophotovoltaic (APV) project, supported by the German government and local partners, integrates solar panels with agricultural activities in dryland areas. The solar panels reduce soil moisture loss and create a more favorable crop environment by providing shade. This project demonstrates the adaptability of agrivoltaics to different climates and its potential to improve resilience against climate change.

Innovations Driving Agrivoltaics to $15.87 Billion Market Valuation

Innovations in technology and agricultural practices are crucial to the advancement of agrivoltaics. Recent developments have focused on optimizing the design and management of agrivoltaic systems to maximize their benefits.

Dynamic Solar Tracking Systems

Traditional fixed solar panels can limit the amount of sunlight reaching crops. However, dynamic solar tracking systems, which adjust the angle of panels throughout the day, offer a solution. These systems optimize solar energy capture while allowing more sunlight to reach the ground. Projects incorporating dynamic tracking, such as the SunAgri project in France, have shown promising results in balancing energy production with agricultural productivity.

Adaptive Crop Selection

Choosing suitable crops to grow in agrivoltaic systems is critical. Research indicates that certain crops, such as shade-tolerant vegetables and forage plants, thrive in agrivoltaic environments. Collaborative efforts between agronomists and solar developers are refining crop selection and rotation strategies to enhance yields and land use efficiency. For example, a study by the University of Arizona explored cultivating leafy greens and herbs under solar panels, demonstrating improved water use efficiency and crop quality.

Livestock Integration

Integrating livestock with solar farms presents an innovative approach to agrivoltaics. Grazing animals, such as sheep, can maintain vegetation under solar panels, reducing the need for mechanical mowing and contributing to soil health. The University of Massachusetts Amherst's Clean Energy Extension has implemented a project where sheep graze under solar arrays, demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of this approach. This integration enhances land use efficiency and provides additional revenue streams for farmers.

Investments in Agrivoltaics

The growing interest in agrivoltaics has attracted significant investments from both public and private sectors. These investments are crucial for scaling agrivoltaic projects and advancing research and development.

Government Support

Governments worldwide recognize the potential of agrivoltaics and provide financial incentives to support its adoption. In the European Union, the Horizon 2020 program has allocated funds for agrivoltaic research and pilot projects. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have launched initiatives to promote agrivoltaic practices, offering grants and technical assistance to farmers and researchers.

Private Sector Investment

Private companies and investors are also playing a vital role in advancing agrivoltaics. Solar energy companies like NextEra Energy and Enel Green Power are exploring agrivoltaic projects as part of their renewable energy portfolios. Additionally, venture capital firms are investing in startups focused on agrivoltaic technologies and services. For instance, Sunfolding, a company specializing in solar tracking technology, has raised significant funding to develop adaptive systems for agrivoltaic applications.

Academic and Research Institutions

Academic and research institutions are at the forefront of agrivoltaic innovation. Universities, such as the University of California, Davis, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, are conducting extensive research on agrivoltaics, exploring optimal system designs, crop combinations, and management practices. These institutions often collaborate with government agencies, private companies, and farmers to translate research findings into practical applications.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

Technical and Economic Feasibility

The technical feasibility of agrivoltaic systems depends on local climate, soil conditions, and crop types. Ensuring that solar panels and agricultural activities do not interfere with each other requires careful planning and design. Moreover, the economic viability of agrivoltaics depends on balancing energy production with agricultural output. Policymakers and investors must consider these factors when supporting agrivoltaic projects.

Regulatory Frameworks

Clear and supportive regulatory frameworks are essential for the growth of agrivoltaics. Policies that incentivize dual-use land practices streamline permitting processes, and provide financial support for farmers can accelerate the adoption of agrivoltaics. Governments should work towards creating favorable regulatory environments that encourage collaboration between the energy and agricultural sectors.

Community Engagement

Engaging local communities and stakeholders is crucial for the success of agrivoltaic projects. Farmers, in particular, need to be involved in the planning and implementation stages to ensure that agrivoltaic systems meet their needs and expectations. Building trust and fostering partnerships between solar developers, farmers, and researchers can drive the successful integration of agrivoltaics into mainstream agricultural practices.


Agrivoltaics represents a transformative approach to sustainable land use, offering a promising solution to food security, renewable energy, and climate change challenges. By integrating agricultural, forage, and livestock production systems within utility-scale solar farms, agrivoltaics maximizes land productivity and economic returns while reducing environmental impacts. As the field evolves, collaboration between governments, private sectors, and research institutions will be key to maximizing its full potential and creating a more sustainable future.

To learn more about this growing industry, see the report Agrivoltaics Market – A Global and Regional Analysis by BIS Research.

About the Publisher: BIS Research is a global market intelligence, research and advisory company that focuses on emerging technology trends that are likely to disrupt the market. Its team includes industry veterans, experts, and analysts with diverse backgrounds in consulting, investment banking, government, and academia.

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