Effects of Revegetation on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties in Solar Photovoltaic Infrastructure

Chong Choi, Alexander Cagle, Jordan Macknick, Dellena Bloom, Joshua Caplan, Sujith Ravi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is being deployed at an unprecedented rate. However, utility-scale solar energy development is land intensive and its large-scale installation can have negative impacts on the environment. In particular, solar energy infrastructure can require extensive landscape modification that transforms soil ecological functions, thereby impacting hydrologic, vegetative, and carbon dynamics. However, reintroducing native vegetation to solar PV sites may be a means of restoring their soils. To this end, we investigated critical soil physical and chemical parameters at a revegetated photovoltaic array and an adjacent reference grassland in Colorado, United States. Seven years after revegetation, we found that carbon and nitrogen remained lower in the PV soil than in the reference soil and contained a greater fraction of coarse particles. We also found that the PV modules introduced heterogeneity in the soil moisture distribution, with precipitation accumulating along the lower edges of panels. The redistribution of soil moisture by panel arrays could potentially be used in concert with planting strategies to maximize plant growth or minimize soil erosion, and should be considered when evaluating the potential to co-locate vegetation with solar infrastructure.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number140
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Choi, Cagle, Macknick, Bloom, Caplan and Ravi.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-77523

Keywords

  • agrivoltaics
  • co-location
  • infiltration
  • land use change
  • renewable energy
  • soil moisture

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