Environmental Co-Benefits of Maintaining Native Vegetation With Solar Photovoltaic Infrastructure: Article No. e2023EF003542

Chong Choi, Jordan Macknick, Yudi Li, Dellena Bloom, James McCall, Sujith Ravi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Co-locating solar photovoltaics with vegetation could provide a sustainable solution to meeting growing food and energy demands. However, studies quantifying multiple co-benefits resulting from maintaining vegetation at utility-scale solar power plants are limited. We monitored the microclimate, soil moisture, panel temperature, electricity generation and soil properties at a utility-scale solar facility in a continental climate with different site management practices. The compounding effect of photovoltaic arrays and vegetation may homogenize soil moisture distribution and provide greater soil temperature buffer against extreme temperatures. The vegetated solar areas had significantly higher soil moisture, carbon, and other nutrients compared to bare solar areas. Agrivoltaics in agricultural areas with carbon debt can be an effective climate mitigation strategy along with revitalizing agricultural soils, generating income streams from fallow land, and providing pollinator habitats. However, the benefits of vegetation cooling effects on electricity generation are rather site-specific and depend on the background climate and soil properties. Overall, our findings provide foundational data for site preservation along with targeting site-specific co-benefits, and for developing climate resilient and resource conserving agrivoltaic systems.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
JournalEarth's Future
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-84668

Keywords

  • agrivoltaics
  • environment
  • InSPIRE
  • microclimate
  • soil
  • solar

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