Techno-Ecological Synergies of Solar Energy for Global Sustainability

Jordan Macknick, Garvin Heath, Rebecca Hernandez, Alona Armstrong, Jennifer Burney, Greer Ryan, Kara Moore-O'Leary, Ibrahima Diedhiou, Steven Grodsky, Leslie Saul-Gershenz, Rob Davis, Dustin Mulvaney, Shane Easter, Madison Hoffacker, Michael Allen, Daniel Kammen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus Citations


The strategic engineering of solar energy technologies—from individual rooftop modules to large solar energy power plants—can confer significant synergistic outcomes across industrial and ecological boundaries. Here, we propose techno–ecological synergy (TES), a framework for engineering mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems, as an approach to augment the sustainability of solar energy across a diverse suite of recipient environments, including land, food, water, and built-up systems. We provide a conceptual model and framework to describe 16 TESs of solar energy and characterize 20 potential techno–ecological synergistic outcomes of their use. For each solar energy TES, we also introduce metrics and illustrative assessments to demonstrate techno–ecological potential across multiple dimensions. The numerous applications of TES to solar energy technologies are unique among energy systems and represent a powerful frontier in sustainable engineering to minimize unintended consequences on nature associated with a rapid energy transition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)560-568
Number of pages9
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature Limited.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-73099


  • agriculture
  • agrivoltaics
  • co-location
  • solar


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