Growing crops in the safe shadows of solar panels is a practice known as agrivoltaic farming, and it is quickly gaining popularity because it can help the world meet its food and energy demands while lowering its dependency on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. The use of agrivoltaics has been demonstrated to boost the output of numerous crops, including corn, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, and grazing grass. According to studies, crop yields rise when solar panels partially shade the crops. This microclimate preserves water and shields plants from excessive sunlight, wind, hail, and soil erosion. This increases the amount of food produced per acre and may lower food prices.
Solar panels are used to cover a variety of crops, including fruit trees, across Europe. Agrivoltaics, meantime, is employed in China to stop the desertification process by turning once desert areas green. In US studies of rural residents from Texas through Michigan, 81.8% of respondents indicated they would be more likely to support solar expansion in their neighborhood if it included farming. The idea of preserving agricultural jobs, higher energy sales revenue, and the possibility of a consistent income source that may serve as a safety net against inflation and poor crop seasons are generally well received by rural residents.
Given that it is a worldwide agricultural powerhouse and has set a goal of $75 billion in food exports by 2025, Canada has significant agrivoltaic potential. In Canada, agrivoltaics has mainly been used in conventional solar farms, where the grass beneath the solar panels is used for grazing sheep and shepherds. Canada must begin practicing large-scale agriculture under the shade of solar panels in order to compete with other big agricultural producers. This will make it possible to grow a variety of crops, such as vegetables like broccoli, celery, peppers, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes, as well as field crops like potatoes, corn, and wheat, all of which have been shown to yield more when covered.
According to the life cycle study of agrivoltaics, these solar-covered farms produce 82.9% less fossil energy and generate 69.3% fewer greenhouse gases than conventional food farms. Canada needs to fully adopt agrivoltaics if it hopes to fulfill its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by raising the non-emitting share of energy generation to 90% by 2030. Using this system, less than 1% of Canadian land could supply more than 25% of the nation's electrical energy requirements.
In Canada, the potential for agrivoltaic-based solar energy production vastly exceeds the nation's present power consumption. By supplying the booming computing industry with electricity, solar energy can increase economic prospects and aid in the US's transition away from fossil fuels. It can also be utilized to electrify and decarbonize transportation and heating systems. In addition to charging electric cars and producing hydrogen, agrivoltaic farms can also store their electricity for use in transportation. By substituting natural gas furnaces with solar-powered heat pumps, Ontario families' heating needs can currently be profitably satisfied by solar energy.
Agrivoltaic farming has several advantages, but there are certain obstacles to its widespread use in Canada. For instance, these farms are being hampered by well-intentioned rules. Due to legislation protecting farms, it is illegal to install solar in the Greenbelt in Ontario. On Crown Land in Alberta, similar problems also exist. Capital expenses are the other significant obstacle preventing agrivoltaic development. Compared to what farmers are used to, agrivoltaics has a significantly higher capital cost per acre, but the revenue is much higher. But in order for Canada to fully realize the enormous potential of agrivoltaic farming, these obstacles must be removed.