New research indicates that co-progressing land for both solar energy as well as agriculture, identified as Agri-Voltaics, could supply a minimum of 1% of the nation’s yearly budget for up to 20% of the total United States electricity production. A wide-scale construction of the agri-voltaic schemes could result in an annual decrease of 330,000 tons of the carbon dioxide emissions across the United States, which is equivalent to 75,000 off-road vehicles annually, as well as the production of over 100,000 job opportunities in rural areas, all while moderately affecting agricultural productivity, as per scientists at Oregon State University.

Chad Higgins who works at the Oregon State College of Agricultural Sciences as an associate professor stated: “Agri-Voltaics have a little opportunity for real synergy: increased food, more electricity, lower water use, reduce carbon emissions and also more stable rural communities. Higgins noted that agri-Voltaics was also compatible with ‘Green New Deal’ objectives, a bundle of federal regulations to mitigate climate change and economic disparities.

“In particular, agriculture in rural America can be the remedy to most of our challenges, whether that be clean energy, combating the consequences of climate change, reliable agriculture or effective management of the water resources,” he added, noting that such a link is relatively unexplored due to insufficient expenditure in such communities. Higgins clarified: “In this research, what we suggest is all conceivable. Technically, it’s probable. It’s conceivable politically. And then after the original investment, it will make money. That was the thing to take away that we should take a good look at agricultural activities rather than a source of challenges as a remedy to issues.

Higgins is planning the work described in the report for the next stage of his agri-Voltaics analysis, which entails constructing a completely functioning solar plant. The farm was built to prioritise farming operations on 5 acres of the North Willamette Research and Extension Station of Oregon State situated in Aurora, Oregon, Twenty miles south of the Portland. As per the scientists, the next step attempts to show how results can be implemented in the real-world agricultural program to support wide adoption to the agricultural population and possible future financial backers. It is estimated that the ground will be broken by May 2021, with development expected to begin in the year 2022. In the report, Higgins as well as co-author Kyle Proctor, who is a PhD candidate in his lab, observed that agri-Voltaics would need an area around the scale of Maryland to fulfil 20% United States electricity generation requirements. That’s about 13,000 square miles; that would be about one-quarter of current United States farmland. Over a 35-year entire project, the expense of the agri-voltaic arrays will be $1.12tn. Still, the analysts assume that with federal government helping with rebates as well as other benefits, the private sector will participate in the remainder of the building costs.

By Adam