What is Agrivoltaics?

Most large, ground‐mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are installed on land used only for solar energy production. It’s possible to co-locate solar and agriculture on the same land, which could provide benefits to both the solar and agricultural industries. Co-location, also known as agrivoltaics or dual-use solar, is defined as agricultural production, such as crop or livestock production or pollinator habitats, underneath solar panels or adjacent to solar panels. As of March 2023, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory had identified 314 agrivoltaic projects in the United States representing over 2.8GW of solar capacity, of which most were focused on grazing and pollinator habitat, with relatively integrating crop production.

Exploring alternate solar system designs and agricultural practices that optimize both energy and agricultural production at co‐located sites may offer opportunities to increase overall value and lower soft costs, or non-hardware costs, of solar energy. Learn more about how soft costs work.

Why is Agrivoltaics Important?

In models of a decarbonized electricity system, the Solar Futures Study estimates that solar energy could provide 1 terawatt of electricity-generating capacity to the grid by 2035, which would require the use of 5.7 million acres of land. While this is a small fraction (less than 0.3%) of US land area, solar is likely to conflict with agriculture land use because the same attributes that make land appropriate for solar energy (plentiful sun, flat land) are also attractive for agriculture.

A journal article published in Nature Sustainability finds the co‐location of solar PV and agriculture could provide agricultural enterprises with diversified revenue sources and ecological benefits, while reducing land use competition and siting restrictions. Optimizing system designs and business practices will help to enable simultaneous land use for both industries, which can benefit farmers, lower solar soft costs and enable the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to reach its goals.

SETO Research in Agrivoltaics

SETO projects in this research topic are developing technologies, evaluating practices, and conducting research and analysis that enable farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural enterprises to gain value from solar technologies while keeping land available for agricultural purposes.

The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program funds projects that are developing impact studies to examine how agrivoltaic designs affect both agriculture production and energy production, studying how agrivoltaics can integrate into existing solar farms, and developing resources that will lower the barriers of entry to agrivoltaics. Additionally, the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 funding program funds projects that are developing new system designs and technologies, developing co‐location models that help overcome soft cost barriers and realize additional value streams, and support research and analysis on the ecological or performance impacts of solar and agriculture co‐location.

Explore all of SETO’s projects in the Solar Energy Research Database.

Additional Resources

Learn more about soft costs research, other solar energy research in SETO, and current and former funding programs.