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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Agrivoltaics: Finding Win-Win-Win Solutions for Food, Energy and the Environment by Combining Agriculture and Solar Power Production

Principal Investigator: Steven Loheide, professor civil and environmental engineering

Co-Principal Investigators:

Ankur Desai, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Chris Kucharik, professor of agronomy

Clean electricity produced from solar is necessary to curb climate change and avoid more frequent extreme weather; however large solar projects in Wisconsin are causing land-use conflicts in rural and agricultural communities. Agrivoltaics – growing crops or grazing animals underneath or between solar panels – may be a sustainable path for meeting our growing food and energy demands. Other co-benefits from this practice may include more efficient use of water by plants, increased recharge of groundwater supplies, creation of pollinator habitat, enhanced carbon sequestration in soils and economic opportunities for rural communities.

This project will create an Agrivoltaic Observatory at the Kegonsa Research Campus to measure the response of vegetation to the novel shade and rain sheltering created by solar panels and evaluate the viability of agrivoltaics in Wisconsin.  Ultimately, the research team hopes to demonstrate the effectiveness of these approaches and develop design and operational guidelines to maximize agrivoltaic co-benefits in Wisconsin.