Rebecca Minor ’03 and Bates Geology’s Assistant in Instruction recently coauthored a paper in Nature Sustainability, “Agrivoltaics provide mutual benefits across the food-energy-water nexus in drylands.”
Rebecca’s previous research at the University of Arizona focused on carbon and water cycling. This paper reports on Agrivoltaics, the idea that both plants and photovoltaics (solar panels) might benefit from being located in the same place. Especially in drylands where temperature is predicted to increase and precipitation events are expected to decrease in the future climate, the resilience of our food and energy systems is a pressing challenge. Photovoltaics are increasingly the dominate land use across the sunny southwest, resulting in a conflict between agricultural production, conservation of desert species, and energy generation over land resources. Plants grown under photovoltaics experience less heat and water stress, resulting in increased production. Photovoltaics experience lower temperatures in this novel ecosystem as well, which increases efficiency. Future research will explore the relationships between native vegetation and solar panels. Read the full September 2019 article here.