The symbiotic relation of sun and plants

October 6, 2022
1-2 minutes

Farmers have known since the beginning of agriculture how impactful the sun can be on their crops. Too much or not enough, and harvest can be reduced.

They are not the only ones trying to get the best of the solar star. Energy companies wants to benefit from this CO2-free source to produce electricity.

Both agriculture and solar energy have in common the need for a large footprint and they sometimes compete on land use.

Except when they don’t and manage to create synergies with a technology called agrivoltaism. Crops (fruits, vine, grain…) are growing or livestock are grazing under the solar arrays. Compared to the traditional photovoltaic plant, spacing and heights of the panels are adapted.

Not only no additional land is used but they provide benefits to each other, creating value for both farmer and energy company. On one hand, the electricity is used to operate the farm or sent to the grid (generating revenue), and on the other hand, the crop yield can be improved by 10 to 20%.

In most cases (it’s even mandatory in France), agricultural activities are favored over the electricity production of the solar photovoltaic system. Solar panels are installed in order to provide maximum benefits to the plants: the shade they create decreases water use as evapotranspiration is reduced, soil humidity is higher. Temperatures below the solar array will be few degrees lower in the summer and few degrees higher in the winter than in an open field.On top of shading and temperature (helping with drought and frost), the solar panels can also provide protection against damaging weather events such as hail or heavy rain.

Panels are equipped with trackers and can adapt their tilt to sun position and to weather conditions in order to maximize electricity production and to offer optimum protection. In addition, throughout the field, sensors are measuring temperature, humidity and plants growth.In order to play their part, trackers and sensors need a “brain”, a software able to consolidate and analyze the data they collect. This data and the one coming from external sources (on typical plant growth and needs, on weather pattern and forecast) are then fed into an artificial intelligence optimizing the overall system.

The more accurate and precise the data is, the better the optimization will be.

However precise local weather data is often missing. Satellites and radars observations are less accurate for very local conditions and on-site weather stations do not cover enough area.

That’s where HD Rain has a key role to play. Its innovative solution relies on a network of sensors (already 1 000 installed in the southern part of France) and algorithms. It processes data minute by minute with a 500 m spatial resolution and a forecast up to 2 hours in advance.

A solution such as HD Rain’s can feed key data to the agrivoltaic management system, allowing it to adapt quickly to changing weather conditions. No time lost, higher accuracy, better optimization, better protection.

With the fast expansion of renewable energy and the increasing impact of climate change, agriculture and solar PV electricity production are building an ideal collaboration. The accuracy and the quality of HD Rain’s solution could help improving it even further.