Solar panels instead of shade cloth

Berkeloid

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Hi all,

Just read an interesting article this morning which I thought may be of interest:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/09/crops-under-solar-panels-can-be-a-win-win

Where I am in the subtropics it seems the sun can be very harsh, and a number of people are using shade cloth to take the edge off the strong sunlight so their plants don't cook. This article covers an experiment that was done by using solar panels instead of shade cloth, to not only limit some of the sunlight but to also generate electricity in the process.

It seems it was quite a success, lowering the heat, reducing water evaporation, and the plants actually produced more fruit.

I have been wondering for a little while myself whether something like this was possible, only I was thinking of semi-transparent solar panels instead. But of course after reading the article it makes perfect sense that installing the solar panels quite high up with large gaps in between each panel will have a similar effect by casting a diffuse shadow and still letting a lot of light through.

Definitely food for thought for anyone looking to get their first or additional solar panels!
 
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ClissAT

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That's certainly a very original use for panels!
I don't understand why all the land under all solar farms is not more thoroughly utilised.
To me it's common sense but like with everything else, common sense seems to be the lacking ingredient.
 
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Berkeloid

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I agree. I remember hearing about a local university having a small solar farm and spending a fortune on keeping the grass mowed, until they had the bright idea of letting the sheep they used for teaching vets loose and had them eat the grass instead, so they no longer had to pay for mowing and saved money on feed as well. An amusing story perhaps, but it goes to show how well grass can grow under normal panels, so it is surprising that nobody really seems to have tried growing anything else!
 

ClissAT

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I liked his term 'agrivoltics'!

Someone here in Australia has recently had the bright idea of grazing sheep under solar panels in Northern Territory I think the farm is.
The grazing property needed new income because everyone in this country is suffering drought related lack of income right now with no end in sight.
But the females in the family didn't like the scorched earth method of keeping the land cleared under the panels.
So one of the kids said why don't we put the sheep in there?
So thats what happened and low and behold, they are growing the best wool and meat with higher lambing percentages than ever!
Who'd've thunk it?!?!? :crazy::facepalm:

Just a bit about weather related info.
The new solar cycle is beginning which will have even less sunspot activity than the previous cycle. Scientists hope it will be the most minimum of the cycles. Reminiscent of the Maunder Minimum cycle in the fifteenth century named after the scientists who discovered the cyclic activity in the sun.
Less sunspots means crazy weather for Earth because its that activity that compresses and stabilizes the electromagnetic shape and displacement of our atmosphere.
Look here for more info https://suspicious0bservers.org/
So we have another 10-20 yrs of this horrid weather to look forward to.
Yaayyyy!!!
And if it turns out this new cycle isn't the most minimum, but the next cycle holds even less activity? then.........................
In anycase, northern hemisphere will get colder and wetter and southern hemisphere will get hotter and drier!
Yaayyyy!
For those in northern hemisphere......Don't sell your snow plough!
 
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Mark Seaton

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As with most industries throughout time, There is the all about me principle, whereby I am here to do X and bugger anyone else.
By that in the solar farm industry, the extra cost involved in raising the panels to be high enough for the underneath to be usable and productive, would be too expensive to bother with unless someone else were to foot the bill. And then don't get me started on the insurance etc for either the equipment or third party etc.
So as is the norm, it is bugger everyone else, I am here to make my solar power and do it the way I know.

As a handyman working in the building industry, I watch this kind of thing happen daily, where 1 trade is there to do his job and who cares how hard it makes it for the other trades.

What really needs to happen is a forward thinker/planner gets involved in all projects to make the best of all situations, but alas, we are all human!
 

DTK

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I agree Mark, but trouble is, at least in my experience, adding that forward thinker (often a project manager in larger situations) adds another level of cost... and again, in my cynical assessment, is more often inserted in order to minimise risk / shift accountability (avoid blame game). I saw this first hand in an $800M + project- made me sick to observe. Back at smaller scale when the "forward thinker" is intimately involved in the project it is a great plus.
 
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Benjamin Cullen

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That's a great idea, save money by farming your own fruit and veg and farming your own power well your at it.
 
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oliverm

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Thanks a lot for the interesting article. I think normal PV panels are beautiful already! We don't need more design(and more expensive), but we need them to be cheaper!