According to a new study, although considered by some picky eaters, broccoli is well suited for growing along with solar panels.
The study by Chongnam National University in South Korea is part of a growing field of “agrovoltaics” in which agronomists and energy experts are looking for opportunities for solar energy and agriculture to exist on the same land to meet the world’s needs for both energy and food.
Conclusions published in the journal Agronomyshow that the shade provided by solar panels helps make broccoli a deeper shade of green, making vegetables more appealing to grocery stores and consumers without significant loss of crop size or nutritional value.
But the biggest financial benefits for farmers come from energy production. Revenue from solar energy was about 10 times higher than income from broccoli, suggesting that farmers who already grow vegetables lose the opportunity without having solar panels in the same fields, the study said. Among the authors – Kang Mo-Ku, professor of horticulture.
The paper is “an excellent case study,” said Jordan McNack, a lead analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, whose work is related to agrovoltaics.
His main caveat is that the results only apply to one crop grown in one region. He said the document contains evidence that should stimulate further research elsewhere and with other cultures.
He would know. His team at NREL has several projects that include solar power along with carrots, chard, kale, peppers and tomatoes.
One of the problems with agrovoltaics may simply be the term “agrovoltaics,” which may seem unpleasant to some people, especially those who are not energy researchers and do not work in the energy industry.
Maknik hears this a lot.
“It sounds like jargon, and it sounds a little scary,” he said. “And Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize its spelling and doesn’t think it’s a real word.”
But the basic concept – that farms can produce energy and food on the same acres instead of choosing one or the other – is vital to the transition to clean energy, he said.
So far, the combination of solar energy and agriculture has worked best with solar panels with an area of just a few acres, with electricity mostly consumed by the farm. It does not yet make economic sense in ultra-large projects occupying hundreds or thousands of acres.
Researchers are looking for ways to expand crops that can be grown with solar energy, and the extent to which solar and agriculture can coexist.
But these efforts will not matter much if researchers fail to sell farmers the benefits of working together on solar and crops. And it can be hard to sell. For example, maneuvering agricultural machinery between rows of solar panels can be challenging, Maknik said. In addition, the income from solar energy is much higher than the income from most crops, which many farmers may not want to worry at all about growing solar crops.
But there are exceptions, such as organic products sold in farmers ’markets and in restaurants that are sold at higher prices than crops sold to food companies.
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Jack’s Sunny Garden, near Boulder, Colorado, has become a leading example of a business that combines solar and agriculture, with partners that include NREL. Jack’s Gardens include areas for growing wildflowers and other plants that help promote habitat for bees, which is a common focus for several pioneering businesses in the field of agrovoltaics.
Working with Jack’s and others, Maknik has learned that the crops that work best with solar resources can vary greatly depending on the local climate.
Thus, farmers can grow large green heads of broccoli under solar panels in South Korea, but tomatoes may work better in Colorado; researchers and farmers work together to find out where it works.
Other stories about energy transfer that should be noted this week:
Climeworks is building a giant carbon suction plant in Iceland: Climeworks AG has begun construction of perhaps the world’s largest “direct air catch” plant, which sucks carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it underground. The plant in Iceland will operate in 18-24 months and will be able to remove 36,000 metric tons of carbon per year, Kate Abnett reports Reuters. The capacity is 10 times the capacity of the company’s existing plant in Iceland, which is currently the largest in the world. Climeworks, based in Switzerland, is one of the leaders in the growing carbon removal industry.
Last year, offshore wind turbines tripled: In 2021, countries have connected 21.1 gigawatts of offshore wind to the grid, which is three times more than in 2020, according to a new report by the industry group. Sea wind growth occurs when countries adopt environmentally friendly energy policies to support development, and equipment prices fall as Maria Galuchi reports for Canary Media. Growth in 2021 brought the total to 56 gigawatts, less than 1 percent of which is in U.S. waters. China was the leader in new construction last year, while the United States has many major projects at various stages of development, but has not yet completed any of them.
The Netherlands is betting on a nuclear revival: The Netherlands plans to build at least two nuclear reactors in the near future, an approach to energy and climate change that is different from neighboring Germany and Belgium. The leaders of the Netherlands view nuclear energy as an important part of the transition from fossil fuels and at the same time meeting the needs of the population as Alexander Kaufman tells HuffPosta story that also touches on the global debate on the safety and availability of nuclear energy.
In Indiana, the effect of solar stimulation on the roof ends: Solar metering will soon expire for Indiana consumers who are serviced by the state’s regulated utilities, reducing the financial benefits of rooftop solar energy. Expiration before July 1 means that owners of solar energy on roofs will receive lower rates for excess electricity they sell back into the grid, as. Sarah Bowman reports for The Indianapolis Star. The policy change is the result of a 2017 state law that began phasing out grid accounting in response to utilities ’concerns that rising solar energy on rooftops would shift the cost of maintaining grid to non-solar customers because solar-powered customers pay much lower bills. The law affects customers who are recently installing solar panels, as people who already have solar panels will continue to receive the same tariffs. Proponents of clean energy say the new rules will not kill the solar market, but they will make rooftop solar energy less accessible to consumers.
Pure energy inside is an ICN weekly newsletter with news and analytics on the energy transition. Send tips and questions on the news to email@example.com.