ArticlePDF Available

Designing solar farms for synergistic commercial and conservation outcomes


Abstract and Figures

Competition among land uses is making it increasingly difficult to set aside adequate space for wildlife and nature conservation, so it is imperative that opportunities that simultaneously achieve commercial and conservation outcomes be identified and seized. Such opportunities exist in the renewable energy industry. It is widely recognized that renewable energy generation benefits the ecosphere through reduced carbon emissions, but currently, further opportunities for realising direct and indirect conservation benefits through the design of solar farms are less well known. Among other opportunities, solar farm designs that deliver environmental credits through carbon sequestration and biodiversity improvements can deliver higher financial returns. Other opportunities to improve local hydrology, pollination, and pest-control services could be available depending on site-specific characteristics where solar farms are built, and the other land use practices that exist, or are possible, in the immediate vicinity. Here, we explore opportunities among renewable energy generation, agriculture, and conservation, through the co-location and innovative design of PV solar energy farms on grazing and croplands. These forms of land sharing can achieve higher land-equivalent ratios (LERs), a quantitative metric of the reduction in land use. We identify opportunities whereby solar farms can be designed to improve biodiversity, land condition, and conservation outcomes, while maintaining or increasing commercial returns. Much work remains, however, to understand the suite of opportunities available for achieving simultaneously the best commercial and conservation outcomes through solar farm designs in agricultural landscapes.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
0038-092X/© 2021 International Solar Energy Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Designing solar farms for synergistic commercial and
conservation outcomes
Eric J. Nordberg
, M. Julian Caley
, Lin Schwarzkopf
College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia
ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers and School of Mathematical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD 4000,
Agrivoltaic systems
Land sharing
Regenerative agriculture
Solar farm
Triple bottom line
Competition among land uses is making it increasingly difcult to set aside adequate space for wildlife and
nature conservation, so it is imperative that opportunities that simultaneously achieve commercial and con-
servation outcomes be identied and seized. Such opportunities exist in the renewable energy industry. It is
widely recognized that renewable energy generation benets the ecosphere through reduced carbon emissions,
but currently, further opportunities for realising direct and indirect conservation benets through the design of
solar farms are less well known. Among other opportunities, solar farm designs that deliver environmental
credits through carbon sequestration and biodiversity improvements can deliver higher nancial returns. Other
opportunities to improve local hydrology, pollination, and pest-control services could be available depending on
site-specic characteristics where solar farms are built, and the other land use practices that exist, or are possible,
in the immediate vicinity. Here, we explore opportunities among renewable energy generation, agriculture, and
conservation, through the co-location and innovative design of PV solar energy farms on grazing and croplands.
These forms of land sharing can achieve higher land-equivalent ratios (LERs), a quantitative metric of the
reduction in land use. We identify opportunities whereby solar farms can be designed to improve biodiversity,
land condition, and conservation outcomes, while maintaining or increasing commercial returns. Much work
remains, however, to understand the suite of opportunities available for achieving simultaneously the best
commercial and conservation outcomes through solar farm designs in agricultural landscapes.
1. Introduction
Human population growth continues to exert increasing pressure on
the land resources upon which we rely for diverse ecosystem services.
Setting aside natural areas for wildlife and nature conservation, land
sparing (Box 1; Fischer et al. 2008), has an important role in maintaining
natural resources and the services they provide.
Given the often large and widely distributed areas required to
conserve biodiversity, and the necessity of ensuring that such areas are
properly managed and protection is enforced (Phalan et al., 2011), re-
sources available for nature conservation are seldom sufcient. Conse-
quently, approaches other than land sparing, to conserve biodiversity
have gained more attention in recent years, especially in urban land-
scapes (Ives et al., 2016; Wolch et al., 2014). Urban green spaces, public
parks and gardens, and green roofs and walls support increased biodi-
versity in patches across anthropogenic landscapes (Goddard et al.,
2010). Further, many of these urban green spaces are multi-functional,
supporting biodiversity, food production (e.g., public gardens and green
roofs), and recreation (e.g., parks, golf courses). Such spaces can also
provide additional benets of improved air quality (Nowak et al., 2006),
better physical and mental health (Ward Thompson et al., 2012; Wolch
et al., 2014), and reduced heat-island effects (Tsilini et al., 2015). By
leveraging these effects, urban designs can contribute to the achieve-
ment of the United NationsSustainability and Development Goals
(United Nations, 2015). Beyond urban limits, the emergence of regen-
erative agriculture is another example of attempts to simultaneously
achieve nancial and conservation benets. In such landscapes, the
construction of solar farms presents an additional opportunity to co-
design facilities that focus on achieving better commercial returns for
agriculture and renewable energy businesses, while improving conser-
vation outcomes. Here we examine the inuence of spatial pairing of
agricultural and solar assets, agrivoltaic systems (Dinesh and Pearce,
* Corresponding author at: School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia.
E-mail address: (E.J. Nordberg).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Solar Energy
journal homepage:
Received 3 February 2021; Received in revised form 29 August 2021; Accepted 30 September 2021
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
2016; Dupraz et al., 2011a), on the achievement of simultaneous ben-
ets across agriculture, industry, and conservation (Fig. 1; Semeraro
et al. 2018).
2. Potential commercial and environmental returns from
agrivoltaic systems
The opportunities presented by designing land sharing schemes that
incorporate renewable energy production, agriculture, and nature con-
servation are just starting to be understood and, in a very limited
number of cases, realised (Dupraz et al., 2011a; Hernandez et al., 2015;
Kiesecker et al., 2011; Semeraro et al., 2018). Such opportunities should
be vast given the very considerable land areas globally being committed
to renewable energy generation (REN21, 2019; Trainor et al., 2016) and
the extensive application of land to agriculture (e.g. 48.6 million km
[37.4% of global land area]; World Bank Group 2016). Indeed, the co-
location of photovoltaic (PV) solar facilities within agricultural land-
scapes can increase productivity of crops under solar panels (Dupraz
et al., 2011b; Marrou et al., 2013c), increase soil carbon, and reduce
water evaporation (Armstrong et al., 2014; Hassanpour Adeh et al.,
2018; Marrou et al., 2013a).
Achieving better commercial and environmental outcomes from
solar farms will ultimately depend on the design of hybrid land-use
systems that capitalize on the opportunities presented at individual lo-
cations. These designs, in turn, will need to be underpinned by a detailed
understanding of local conditions and opportunities. In general, though,
solar farms constructed on degraded land should enable vegetation and
soil carbon to regenerate, and at least some local biodiversity to re-
establish in areas from which it had previously been lost (Montag
et al., 2016; Parker and McQueen, 2013). Accordingly, gains at multiple
levels should be achievable, beyond that which might be achieved by
solar power installation designs that do not explicitly consider such
design options. For example, combining cropping or other agricultural
production with solar farms, on the same land, reduces the space
required for both uses, if sited separately. By using degraded landscapes
(e.g., low productivity croplands, or nutrient-poor, overgrazed livestock
properties) for the installation of solar farms, native communities of
plant and animal species may be enhanced, and if coupled with regen-
erative agriculture, much greater synergies might be achieved.
While achieving coupled economic and environmental outcomes in
agrivoltaic systems is laudable, our current understanding of the many
interacting factors that would affect solar electricity production and the
simultaneous generation of positive environmental and biodiversity
outcomes is extremely limited. The generation of additional knowledge
of these opportunities is urgent, especially in light of the current and
rapidly increasing extent of solar farms. Without such understanding,
our ability to limit the impacts of solar farms, much less realise oppor-
tunities associated with optimal hybrid designs, is likely to be missed.
Our purpose here, therefore, is to explore opportunities that might exist
for designing agrivoltaic systems and determine what information is
required to make robust choices among designs.
3. Understanding the potential benets and limitations of
agrivoltaic systems
3.1. PV solar farm performance
Solar farms require ongoing maintenance. This maintenance can
include keeping the solar panels free of debris (e.g., dust, leaves, bird
droppings), which can reduce panel efciency by up to 7% over
extended periods without rain or panel cleaning (Goossens and Van
Kerschaever, 1999; Jaszczur et al., 2019; Mejia et al., 2014). Therefore,
panels need cleaning periodically to maintain high levels of energy
production (Fig. 2a; Mani and Pillai 2010; Lovich and Ennen 2011).
Dust accumulation on panels is a major issue for solar farms in arid
areas, especially those without vegetation or ground cover to trap dust
or reduce local wind speeds. Arid lands also tend to be areas with large
solar resources, suggesting that maintenance will be an important
consideration for solar farms in many locations. Dust accumulation can
be reduced by adding vegetation to solar farms (Li et al., 2007; Munson
et al., 2011). In addition, large-scale PV solar farms increase local
ambient temperatures and act as heat-islands (Armstrong et al., 2016;
Barron-Gafford et al., 2016; Edalat, 2017; Zhang and Xu, 2020) which
can reduce the efciency and performance of solar panels (Fesharaki
et al., 2011; Kande et al., 2016; Popovici et al., 2016) and have negative
impacts on plants and wildlife (Yow, 2007). Vegetation cover around
and under solar panels can reduce this heat-island effect and help
maintain solar panel efciency (Kande et al., 2016; Tsilini et al., 2015).
For example, vegetative ground cover can reduce degradation of solar
panel backsheets (the protective layer on the backside of the solar
panel). Backsheets protect the internal electrical components from
weathering and act as insolation for the solar panel (Gambogi et al.,
2013; Oreski and Wallner, 2005; Voronko et al., 2015). Like many
polymetric materials, backsheets are subject to degradation through
environmental stressors, such as temperature, humidity, and ultraviolet
light (Lin et al., 2016; Oreski and Wallner, 2005). Grass and vegetative
cover under solar panels can reduce the damaging effects of UV light on
the backsheets and slow their degradation (Fairbrother et al., 2018).
Consequently, incorporating vegetation buffers between sets of solar
panels or around the installations perimeter, or both, may produce
multiple benets, including reduced dust accumulation, reduced oper-
ating temperatures of PV panels, and provide habitat for pollinators and
other wildlife (Semeraro et al., 2018).
In contrast to the advantages of incorporating vegetation in solar
farm designs, shading from vegetation will reduce energy output from
PV panels. Therefore, solar panels need to remain un-shaded as much as
Box 1
Glossary of terms.
Term. Denition. Ref.
Agrivoltaic system. Co-located agriculture; (crops or livestock) and energy production on the same
land area.
Dupraz et al. 2011a; Dinesh and
Pearce 2016.
Land equivalent
The relative land area required by monocultures to produce the same yields as
Mead and Willey 1980.
Farming practices that rehabilitate agricultural land (e.g. soil biodiversity,
carbon, health, and organic matter) to enhance production.
Rodale Institute 2014.
Land sharing. Biodiversity conservation and food production occurring on the same land (aka
wildlife-friendly farming)
Green et al. 2005; Fischer et al.
2008; Phalan et al. 2011.
Land sparing. Land designated for conservation use separate for all other uses. Green et al. 2005; Fischer et al.
2008; Phalan et al. 2011.
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
possible to retain efcient energy production, which often requires
vegetation management (Fig. 2b). Tall grasses require periodic mowing,
spraying with herbicides, or grazing by livestock. Both periodic mowing
and chemical suppression require staff and equipment whose costs
reduce the nancial returns of solar farms (Fig. 2b, e). Chemical sup-
pression also comes with added negative effects of chemicals leaching
into the environment and potential costs of preventing and mitigating
their effects (Abbasi and Abbasi, 2000; Montag et al., 2016) and po-
tential biodiversity impacts in the vicinity (e.g., Roundup; Relyea
2005). In contrast, using livestock to manage vegetation can provide
mutual benets to solar farm owners via vegetation management and
agricultural production through forage for livestock (Montag et al.,
2016; Sinha et al., 2018). The utility of such approaches with respect to
maximising nancial returns will depend on how the PV panels are
Fig. 1. A hypothetical agrivoltaic system in Australia. Solar panels are co-located within croplands and on existing grazing land.
Fig. 2. Conceptual model of components and in-
teractions that inuence land condition in agri-
voltaic systems. Five major components are
summarized through their interactions (represented
by a f and described in the text) by: Biodiversity
(wildlife habitat, species diversity, refugia and
cover, pollinator and predators, and ecosystem ser-
vices); Soil and Water (run-off, erosion, soil mois-
ture, soil compaction, dust accumulation, nutrients,
fertilizers); Vegetation (ground cover, vegetation
complexity, weeds, food production); Maintenance
(clearing, infrastructure, mowing, herbicide use,
pesticide use, livestock health, cultivation and har-
vest); Financial returns (carbon credits, electricity
production, jobs, site maintenance, pest control,
prot through livestock/crop yields, supplemental
feeding for livestock).
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
mounted, and the type of livestock used for vegetation management. For
instance, the combination of low panels and large or climbing livestock
may lead to solar panel damage. Therefore, panel design, vegetation
choices, and stocking approaches all need to be integral to the design of
agrivoltaic systems. Through such design considerations, solar farms
have the potential to increase their nancial returns by using grazing
livestock for vegetation management to suppress vegetation from over-
shading solar panels. Further, in some systems, native herbivores could
be encouraged to occupy and forage within solar facilities, (e.g., kan-
garoos or wallabies in Australia, pronghorn antelope in the USA),
providing biodiversity benets, as well as low-cost vegetation manage-
ment that may also, in some cases, provide additional income through
biodiversity offsets (Fig. 2c, d).
3.2. Agriculture and crops
Solar farms can occupy large areas of land, and thereby compete with
other agricultural uses, such as grazing and croplands. But, agrivoltaic
systems that couple PV power generation with shade-tolerant crops can
increase returns up to 30% in some cases, compared to producing energy
and crops separately (Dinesh and Pearce, 2016). Further, agrivoltaic
systems can be highly productive and increase overall land productivity
by 6070% (Dupraz et al., 2011a) as quantied by land-equivalent ratios
(LERs, Box 1; Mead and Willey 1980). Agrivoltaic systems have achieved
LER =1.7, (i.e., a 100 ha. agrivoltaic farm produces as much energy and
crop yields as two separate farms totalling 170 ha.; Dupraz et al. 2011a).
While not all crops are suitable for agrivoltaic systems, lettuce, sweet
potato, alfalfa, and plants with high photosynthetic rates and low root
density or high shade tolerance can grow well in association with solar
farms (Dinesh and Pearce, 2016; Dupraz et al., 2011b; Ezzaeri et al.,
2018; Marrou et al., 2013c; Seidlova et al., 2009; Valle et al., 2017). In
these hybrid systems, shading from solar panels helps maintain soil
moisture and water retention in under-panel vegetation and crops
(Hassanpour Adeh et al., 2018). For example, increased water retention
led to an increase in fresh harvest weight of cucumbers and lettuce
grown under solar panels (Marrou et al., 2013a). Given the diversity of
potential crops and their varying requirements (e.g., photosynthetic,
soil, water, etc.), not all crop species will be suitable in agrivoltaic sys-
tems. Onions grown under solar panels in Wales produced reduced fresh
and dry matter harvest weights compared to non-solar farm yields
(Kadowaki et al., 2012). These effects were also seasonally dependent;
shade from solar panels was more detrimental in winter than summer
(Dupraz et al., 2011b). Clearly, given the diversity of local environ-
mental conditions among sites, and trait diversity among crop plants,
experimentation will be required to learn which combinations work best
for each region and set of conditions.
3.3. Biodiversity
In addition to producing energy and agricultural products, agri-
voltaic facilities can benet biodiversity. PV solar farms can act as
articial habitat islands by providing shelter that may otherwise have
been diminished or destroyed in degraded environments (Sinha et al.,
2018). Similar to articial reefs in lakes and oceans (Baine, 2001;
Bohnsack and Sutherland, 1985; Creque et al., 2006; Folpp et al., 2020),
solar farms add structural complexity and increased heterogeneity to
microhabitats at multiple levels. Solar panels add physical structure to
the environment that provides microhabitats, adding shelter and refugia
for wildlife (Sinha et al., 2018). Multiple studies in Europe have shown
that solar farms support more biodiversity (bumblebees, butteries, and
plant species) than control sites (arable elds; Parker and McQueen
2013; Montag et al. 2016). The increased structural complexity provided
by solar panels provide nesting and perch sites for many birds (Beatty
et al., 2017; DeVault et al., 2014; Peschel, 2010) including ground
nesting birds, which also likely benet from added protection from
aerial predators. Solar farm boundary fences may also provide
additional protection for prey species residing within solar farms, as
some terrestrial predators may be deterred by facility boundary fences
(Sinha et al., 2018).
During the construction phase of PV solar projects, wildlife is often
displaced (Hernandez et al., 2014; Lovich and Ennen, 2011; Turney and
Fthenakis, 2011), but if managed well, wildlife will repopulate sites
following construction (Peschel, 2010). While there are reports of
wildlife mortality at solar installations (i.e., bird collisions; Walston
et al. 2016; Visser et al. 2019; feather damage and insect incineration
from concentrated solar-thermal (CST) solar facilities (McCrary et al.
1984; Kagan et al. 2014; ecological traps; Horv´
ath et al. 2010; Kagan
et al. 2014), the mortality associated with PV solar farms is thought to be
much less than that of traditional power facilities (Walston et al., 2016).
Solar panels can also reduce the mean ground temperatures below
them, and increase local thermal heterogeneity. Similarly, mean mois-
ture and moisture heterogeneity can increase where solar panels are
installed. These local effects are generated by the sun-shade mosaics
caused by panels, and benet many plant and animal species (Beatty
et al., 2017; Hassanpour Adeh et al., 2018). Vegetation that grows under
and around solar panels produces shelter, nesting material, and forage
for many species (Montag et al. 2016; Beatty et al. 2017; Fig. 2e). In
addition, shading by solar panels can cool surface temperatures and
increase soil moisture compared to open landscapes (Hassanpour Adeh
et al., 2018; Marrou et al., 2013b). Solar farms that host more vegetation
than would otherwise be there will also provide habitat for wildlife to
recolonize. Sites with greater botanical diversity also support greater
invertebrate diversity, including pollinators that provide important
ecosystem services (Montag et al., 2016; Semeraro et al., 2018; Van-
bergen et al., 2013; Walston et al., 2018). Wildlife and vegetation on
solar farms interact positively; establishing diverse vegetation commu-
nities will encourage biodiversity including pollinators and predators,
which, in turn, will promote more botanical diversity. Improving land
condition on solar farms by establishing vegetative cover, including
native grasses, shrubs, and owering plants, improves soil health
through increased soil carbon, water retention and inltration, and
reduced surface run-off and consequent erosion (Bartley et al., 2014; Li
et al., 2007). Hydrodynamics, whereby water penetration into the soil is
greater because the presence of plants can help recharge water tables,
and reduce evaporative water losses (Yapp et al., 2010).
Although the design of solar farms can promote better environmental
outcomes, some negative effects of PV installations on ecological com-
munities have been identied. Most investigations of these negative
effects have focused on volant fauna. Birds and bats can be injured or
killed if they collide with solar panels and related infrastructure (Visser
et al., 2019; Walston et al., 2016). Because solar panels reect horizontal
polarized light, similar to water bodies, they can also attract ying
aquatic insects in search of suitable egg-laying locations (Horv´
ath et al.,
2010). This ‘lake-effect could also cause birds to collide with solar
panels, however, this effect has not been thoroughly investigated, and
there are few studies to support or refute this ‘lake-effectin birds
(Kagan et al., 2014; Visser et al., 2019). While solar farms can negatively
impact wildlife, avian mortality due to utility-scale solar facilities are
considerably lower than the mortality associated with other anthropo-
genic causes, including building collisions, road mortality, and habitat
loss associated with fossil fuel development (Walston et al., 2016).
Where such potential concerns are realised, there will be opportunities
to mitigate these, through strategic site planning and design.
3.4. Design and placement of solar farms
The installation of solar farms can disturb landscapes through large-
scale clearing and site preparation. The construction of any solar farm
will cause some level of disturbance to natural habitats. The net benets
of building a new farm will depend on at least two factors: the original
quality of the land prior to its current use, and its current state. For
example, high-quality habitats that have been degraded in recent years
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
through intense cropping, overgrazing, or other damaging agricultural
or industrial practices have the most to gain from regenerative ap-
proaches available to agrivoltaic systems. Regenerative agriculture
coupled with PV solar capacity can help improve the economic prot-
ability, environmental, and ecological values of a site. Degraded land-
scapes of historical high-quality that are selected for regenerative
agrivoltaic sites have the potential to experience the lowest relative
degradation and benet most over the long term, given their current
poor land condition. Of course, many agricultural properties are well
managed and not degraded. In these cases, landowners may be able to
improve low productivity areas (perhaps with poor soil nutrients, rocky
or undulating land, etc.) through land sparing patches or co-planting
alongside solar panels.
Generally, the design and potential outcomes from agrivoltaic in-
stallations will be site specic. For example, landscapes that support
burrowing species, such as desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) or bur-
rowing owls (Athene cunicularia), may be adversely affected if burrows
are collapsed by machinery during solar farm construction (Gibson
et al., 2017; Lovich and Ennen, 2011). Ideally, such negative impacts
could be minimised by using existing low-quality habitats and or low
productivity agricultural areas or improving solar farm design and
Many factors determine the suitability of sites for PV solar farms,
including the quality of the solar resource (Hernandez et al., 2014;
Lovich and Ennen, 2011; Moore-OLeary et al., 2017), available grid
connections, costs of construction, and various environmental consid-
erations. These considerations are even greater for agrivoltaic systems.
For example, solar facilities may require perimeter fences for security,
but fences can block wildlife movement into or across solar farms. Site
designs can mitigate these negative effects on wildlife to some extent
through the application of wildlife-friendly fencing, wildlife gates, or
travel corridors (Cypher et al., 2019). Which mitigants are most effective
will depend on the wildlife communities in the local area. Some wildlife
species may be benecial to solar farms. For example, native herbivores
(e.g., rabbits, kangaroos) may contribute to grass and vegetation sup-
pression. Perimeter fences around PV installations may also block
migratory routes or access to streams or ephemeral wetlands located
within solar farms. Site managers may also require access to water for
periodic cleaning of solar panels to reduce dust accumulation, especially
in arid landscapes, or where birds are plentiful, and solar panel ef-
ciency is reduced by fouling (Jaszczur et al., 2019; Lovich and Ennen,
2011; Mani and Pillai, 2010). Local water resources used for panel
cleaning are at least returned to the local environment, where it may be
used by plants and animals. Where water is very limited, its use by solar
farms may impact other environmental uses, such as access to free water
by wildlife (Cameron et al., 2012; Grippo et al., 2014).
4. Research priorities and recommendations
Typically, solar farms are designed and managed only to produce
renewable electricity. Therefore, it is reasonable that solar farm de-
velopers target locations with the highest quality solar resources that
can easily be connected to electricity grids or local loads. There are,
however, greater nancial returns possible by coupling solar farm
returns with agricultural production and environmental restoration and
conservation. Agricultural markets are well developed and understood,
and can easily be modelled in combination with power production to
create agrivoltic designs that generate greater returns. Environmental
markets for carbon and biodiversity credits and natural capital are much
less well known, and are changing rapidly. Currently, carbon credits,
perhaps the best known of these markets, vary by more than an order of
magnitude in price, and it is reasonable to assume the value of these
credits will increase substantially as more carbon reduction targets are
legislated, and the demand from the voluntary market continues to
expand. Moreover, the opportunity for land holders to access debt and
equity to support their businesses by leveraging their natural capital is
only just starting to emerge as a nancial instrument. Clearly, much
more research will be required to understand and capture these
emerging market opportunities.
These additional returns can be realised not just by accessing these
additional revenue streams, but also realising available synergies among
different land uses in close proximity. For example, appropriate ground
cover under, and in the vicinity of, solar panels could lower running
costs for solar facilities, while producing carbon and other environ-
mental credits, such as access to run-off mediation funds, while
providing pollination and pest control services to adjacent horticultural
production (Delaney et al., 2020; Li and Waller, 2015). Consequently,
rather than simply focusing only on existing priorities, such as opti-
mizing the design, placement, and maintenance of solar facilities
(Peschel, 2010; Sinha et al., 2018), considerable opportunities exist to
consider how landscapes can be improved, rehabilitated, or both,
through the production of multiple products from a mosaic of land uses
in more sustainable ways. These opportunities exist in a variety of
combinations that could include energy production, shade-tolerant
crops, feed for livestock, and wildlife refuge, among others.
While the potential to apply such design principles for simultaneous
and improved conservation, sustainability, and commercial returns
clearly exist, understanding how to design for such synergistic outcomes
is in its infancy. Better understanding of these opportunities will arise
from research directed to address specic questions regarding how to
determine the most appropriate mix of scales and patterns of deploy-
ment of various land uses. The opportunities for co-design will be
complex and location-specic, depending on a combination of ambient
environmental conditions, the agricultural land uses possible and
practiced at that location, the regulatory frameworks under which such
a facility will operate in terms of the environmental costs and credits
available, and the types of technology deployed. Decision support tools
will also need to be developed to optimize these choices in different
circumstances. We suggest that future solar projects should initially
explore multiple use of their sites to achieve better environmental and
commercial outcomes. In its simplest form, an agrivoltaic system might
support both energy production and under-panel crop production. Such
a design would reduce the land required for both uses (i.e. increase the
LER) while supporting at least some biodiversity. Alternatively, an
agrivoltaic system that uses livestock for vegetation management could
reduce labour costs for staff to mow or spray vegetation, support local
graziers via leasing solar farmland to feed stock, and will incidentally
provide habitat for plant and animal diversity. These co-benets may be
further increased by incorporating inter-panel vegetation buffers, tree
and shrub buffers around solar facilities, especially in mosaics of other
land use systems. As our knowledge of the opportunities in this space
increase, agrivoltaic solar facilities have the potential to contribute to
the rehabilitation, and possibly improvement, of biodiversity on
degraded landscapes of poor ecological and economic value and in-
crease the economic returns to solar farms and agriculture while
improving land condition and conservation outcomes.
Rather than constructing new facilities on undisturbed native vege-
tation, or green-eld sites, even areas of low biodiversity value, de-
velopers could focus instead on reusing degraded landscapes for solar
farm development (Cameron et al., 2012; Milbrandt et al., 2014).
Degraded landscapes, overgrazed land, low productivity croplands, and
sites disturbed by anthropogenic practices, are plentiful, and many
could potentially be repurposed. These degraded landscapes are gener-
ally under-used, have poor yield potential, are difcult to cultivate, or
have low economic value that make them comparatively inexpensive to
acquire. However, some regions may be constrained by access and
proximity to electricity grid connections and access roads for construc-
tion. Alternatively, site selection for solar energy projects may raise local
real-estate prices with the promise of better access to grid power in the
vicinity solar farms installations, thereby increasing property values, or
commercial development potential.
The reuse of degraded or lower quality agricultural land, already
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
modied from its original state, provides an opportunity to rehabilitate
or improve land in support of better agrivoltaic system revenues and
improved biodiversity (Hernandez et al., 2016; Kiesecker et al., 2011).
Such modication of existing landscapes into agricultural, environ-
mental, and energy generating mosaics will undoubtably produce trade-
offs whereby one use of the space is compromised in favour of another.
Such trade-offs should be reduced to some extent through careful design
and management that minimizes negative effects and enhances the
positive ones (Neilly et al., 2018).
PV solar farm facilities have generally conformed to standard de-
signs, with panels situated in rows, generally mounted 13 m off the
ground, depending on the racking and mounting system used. Other
designs for solar panel deployment could mitigate, to some extent, the
ongoing need for vegetation management (Fig. 2b,f), or allow grazing
livestock to access vegetation under panels (Guerin, 2017). Rather than
solar panels sitting close to the ground, if panels were situated at least 2
m above the ground at their lowest point, many grasses and shrubs
would not grow tall enough to block the panels from sunlight. Further,
this may allow additional vegetation types to be incorporated into solar
facilities (e.g. shrubs and low woody vegetation) which could provide
more habitat structural complexity, leading to increased biodiversity
(Neilly et al., 2018; Nordberg and Schwarzkopf, 2019). Yet, to our
knowledge, no solar facilities have experimented with the structural
design of solar panels in this manner. Clearly, the additional costs of
materials to place solar panels further above ground on solar farms
would need to be offset by savings on vegetation management (mowing,
spraying, etc.), dust control, and income from available environmental
credits, and other revenue streams from producing food or bre on the
same sites. Conversely, on-ground solar arrays are now available that
reduce the costs of deployment while minimizing ground disturbance.
These low-prole placements may provide better habitat for some kinds
of biodiversity, but may lead to increased panel fouling, or may interact
with other processes in ways we do not yet understand. Irrespective of
the designs deployed, such costs and benets will need to be considered
to optimise system performance. Again, independent of the solar tech-
nology deployed, system designs and solar panel arrangements could be
improved by adding vegetation buffers, shrub and tree rows, and other
patchy vegetation clusters to increase habitat and connectivity for
wildlife, production of livestock and crops, and reduce run-off and
erosion. What is certain is that leaving intact or restoring vegetation
clusters and corridors can increase biodiversity and have positive im-
pacts on species richness and diversity around agricultural landscapes
(Burel, 1996; Nordberg et al., 2021).
5. Summary and future directions
Increasing generation of renewable energy has the potential to
greatly reduce carbon emissions and diminish reliance on fossil fuels,
but little is yet known about the effect of this expanding industry on the
landscapes on which generation facilities are built, or the biodiversity
associated with these sites and the ecosystem services they provide. We
are similarly ignorant of how to minimize these impacts, or access the
potential for better environmental and commercial returns, that could
be realised through better design of solar facilities, in association with
other land uses such as agriculture or conservation. It is clear, however,
that the potential exists for increased net returns from co-locating power
generation, agricultural production, and land restoration and conser-
vation. To understand the size of this potential opportunity, studies
quantifying the direct and indirect effects of solar farms on biodiversity
and agricultural production, and vice versa, are needed. There is ur-
gency in this need for greater understanding, especially given the cur-
rent rapid growth of solar farm construction. As our knowledge of how
to access these opportunities expands, the placement of new solar farms
should be carefully considered to minimize negative effects on ecolog-
ical communities, as should be the co-location of new facilities within
existing disturbed agricultural landscapes. Designing mosaics of land
uses that provide multiple economic benets to multiple industries will
reduce the negative effects of multiple land uses, and provide enhanced
revenue for multiple industries, both through reduced maintenance
costs and increased production. By designing future solar farms in
partnerships with solar farm developers, agriculturalists, economists,
and conservation ecologists, we can achieve more sustainable and
regenerative outcomes for the environmental, agricultural, and power
generation. Doing so will contribute to achieving many of the United
Nations Sustainability and Development Goals (United Nations, 2015).
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
This research did not receive any specic grant from funding
agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-prot sectors.
Abbasi, S.A., Abbasi, N., 2000. The likely adverse environmental impacts of renewable
energy sources. Appl. Energy 65, 121144.
Armstrong, A., Ostle, N.J., Whitaker, J., 2016. Solar park microclimate and vegetation
management effects on grassland carbon cycling. Environ. Res. Lett. 11 (7), 074016.
Armstrong, A., Waldron, S., Whitaker, J., Ostle, N.J., 2014. Wind farm and solar park
effects on plant-soil carbon cycling: Uncertain impacts of changes in ground-level
microclimate. Glob. Chang. Biol. 20 (6), 16991706.
Baine, M., 2001. Articial reefs: a review of their design, application, management and
performance. Ocean Coast. Manag. 44 (3-4), 241259.
Barron-Gafford, G.A., Minor, R.L., Allen, N.A., Cronin, A.D., Brooks, A.E., Pavao-
Zuckerman, M.A., 2016. The photovoltaic heat island effect: Larger solar power
plants increase local temperatures. Sci. Rep. 6, 17.
Bartley, R., Coreld, J.P., Hawdon, A.A., Kinsey-Henderson, A.E., Abbott, B.N.,
Wilkinson, S.N., Keen, R.J., 2014. Can changes to pasture management reduce runoff
and sediment loss to the Great Barrier Reef? the results of a 10-year study in the
Burdekin catchment. Australia. Rangel. J. 36, 6784.
Beatty, B., Macknick, J., Mccall, J., Braus, G., Buckner, D., 2017. Native Vegetation
Performance under a Solar PV Array at the National Wind Technology Center.
Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308.
Bohnsack, J.A., Sutherland, D.L., 1985. Articial reef research: a review with
recommendations for future priorities. Bull. Mar. Sci. 37, 1139.
Burel, F., 1996. Hedgerows and Their Role in Agricultural Landscapes. CRC. Crit. Rev.
Plant Sci. 15 (2), 169190.
Cameron, D.R., Cohen, B.S., Morrison, S.A., 2012. An approach to enhance the
conservation-compatibility of solar energy development. PLoS One 7. https://doi.
Creque, S.M., Raffenberg, M.J., Brofka, W.A., Dettmers, J.M., 2006. If You Build It, Will
They Come? Fish and Angler Use at a Freshwater Articial Reef. North Am. J. Fish.
Manag. 26 (3), 702713.
Cypher, B.L., Westall, T.L., Spencer, K.A., Meade, D.E., Kelly, E.C., Dart, J., Job, C.L.V.H.,
2019. Response of San Joaquin kit foxes to the Topaz solar farms: Implications for
conservation of kit foxes.
Delaney, A., Dembele, A., Nombr´
e, I., Gnane Lirasse, F., Marshall, E., Nana, A.,
Vickery, J., Tayleur, C., Stout, J.C., Requier, F., 2020. Local-scale tree and shrub
diversity improves pollination services to shea trees in tropical West African
parklands. J. Appl. Ecol. 57 (8), 15041513.
DeVault, T.L., Seamans, T.W., Schmidt, J.A., Belant, J.L., Blackwell, B.F., Mooers, N.,
Tyson, L.A., Van Pelt, L., 2014. Bird use of solar photovoltaic installations at US
airports: Implications for aviation safety. Landsc. Urban Plan. 122, 122128. https://
Dinesh, H., Pearce, J.M., 2016. The potential of agrivoltaic systems. Renew. Sustain.
Energy Rev. 54, 299308.
Dupraz, C., Marrou, H., Talbot, G., Dufour, L., Nogier, A., Ferard, Y., 2011a. Combining
solar photovoltaic panels and food crops for optimising land use: Towards new
agrivoltaic schemes. Renew. Energy 36 (10), 27252732.
Dupraz, C., Talbot, G., Marrou, H., Wery, J., Roux, S., Liagre, F., Ferard, Y., Nogier, A.,
2011b. To mix or not to mix: evidences for the unexpected high productivity of new
complex agrivoltaic and agroforestry systems. In: 5th World Congress of
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
Conservation Agriculture Incorporating 3rd Farming Systems Design Conference,
p. 550.
Edalat, M.M., 2017. In: Remote sesning of the environmental impacts of utility-scale
solar energy plants. University of Nevada.
Ezzaeri, K., Fatnassi, H., Bouharroud, R., Gourdo, L., Bazgaou, A., Wifaya, A.,
Demrati, H., Bekkaoui, A., Aharoune, A., Poncet, C., Bouirden, L., 2018. The effect of
photovoltaic panels on the microclimate and on the tomato production under
photovoltaic canarian greenhouses. Sol. Energy 173, 11261134.
Fairbrother, A., Boyd, M., Lyu, Y., Avenet, J., Illich, P., Wang, Y., Kempe, M.,
Dougherty, B., Bruckman, L., Gu, X., 2018. Differential degradation patterns of
photovoltaic backsheets at the array level. Sol. Energy 163, 6269.
Fesharaki, V.J., Dehghani, M., Fesharaki, J.J., 2011. Effect of temperature on the
efciency of the thermal cell. In: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on
Emerging Trends in Energy Conservation, pp. 2021.
Fischer, J., Brosi, B., Daily, G.C., Ehrlich, P.R., Goldman, R., Goldstein, J.,
Lindenmayer, D.B., Manning, A.D., Mooney, H.A., Pejchar, L., Ranganathan, J.,
Tallis, H., 2008. Should agricultural policies encourage land sparing or wildlife-
friendly farming? Front. Ecol. Environ. 6 (7), 380385.
Folpp, H.R., Schilling, H.T., Clark, G.F., Lowry, M.B., Maslen, B., Gregson, M., Suthers, I.
M., Trenkel, V., 2020. Articial reefs increase sh abundance in habitat-limited
estuaries. J. Appl. Ecol. 57 (9), 17521761.
Gambogi, W., Heta, Y., Hashimoto, K., Kopchick, J., Felder, T., MacMaster, S.,
Bradley, A., Hamzavytehraney, B., Felix, V., Aoki, T., Stika, K., Garreau-Illes, L.,
Trout, T.J., 2013. Weathering and durability of PV backsheets and impact on PV
module performance. Reliab. Photovolt. Cells, Modul. Components, Syst. VI 8825,
Gibson, L., Wilman, E.N., Laurance, W.F., 2017. How Green is ‘Green Energy? Trends
Ecol. Evol. 32 (12), 922935.
Goddard, M.A., Dougill, A.J., Benton, T.G., 2010. Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity
conservation in urban environments. Trends Ecol. Evol. 25 (2), 9098. https://doi.
Goossens, D., Van Kerschaever, E., 1999. Aeolian dust deposition on photovoltaic solar
cells: The effects of wind velocity and airborne dust concentration on cell
performance. Sol. Energy 66 (4), 277289.
Green, R.E., Cornell, S.J., Scharlemann, J.P.W., 2005. Farming and the Fate of Wild
Nature. Science (80-.) 307, 550555.
Grippo, M., Hayse, J.W., OConnor, B.L., 2014. Solar Energy Development and Aquatic
Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and
Research Needs. Environ. Manage. 55 (1), 244256.
Group, W.B., 2016. Agricultural land [WWW Document]. Food Agric. Organ. URL htt
Guerin, T., 2017. Using agricultural land for utility-scale photovoltaic solar electricity
generation. Agric. Sci. 29, 4049.
Hassanpour Adeh, E., Higgins, C.W., Selker, J.S., 2018. Remarkable solar panels
Inuence on soil moisture, micrometeorology and water-use efciency. PLoS ONE
13, e0203256.
Hernandez, R.R., Easter, S.B., Murphy-Mariscal, M.L., Maestre, F.T., Tavassoli, M.,
Allen, E.B., Barrows, C.W., Belnap, J., Ochoa-Hueso, R., Ravi, S., Allen, M.F., 2014.
Environmental impacts of utility-scale solar energy. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 29,
Hernandez, R.R., Hoffacker, M.K., Field, C.B., 2015. Efcient use of land to meet
sustainable energy needs. Nat. Clim. Chang. 5, 353358.
Hernandez, R.R., Hoffacker, M.K., Murphy-Mariscal, M.L., Wu, G.C., Allen, M.F., 2016.
Solar energy development impacts on land cover change and protected areas. Proc.
Natl. Acad. Sci. 113, E1768.
ath, G., Blah´
o, M., Egri, ´
A., Kriska, G., Seres, I., Robertson, B., 2010. Reducing the
maladaptive attractiveness of solar panels to polarotactic insects. Conserv. Biol. 24,
Ives, C.D., Lentini, P.E., Threlfall, C.G., Ikin, K., Shanahan, D.F., Garrard, G.E.,
Bekessy, S.A., Fuller, R.A., Mumaw, L., Rayner, L., Rowe, R., Valentine, L.E.,
Kendal, D., 2016. Cities are hotspots for threatened species. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 25
(1), 117126.
Jaszczur, M., Teneta, J., Styszko, K., Hassan, Q., Burzy´
nska, P., Marcinek, E., Łopian, N.,
2019. The eld experiments and model of the natural dust deposition effects on
photovoltaic module efciency. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 26 (9), 84028417.
Kadowaki, M., Yano, A., Ishizu, F., Tanaka, T., Noda, S., 2012. Effects of greenhouse
photovoltaic array shading on Welsh onion growth. Biosyst. Eng. 111 (3), 290297.
Kagan, R.A., Viner, T.C., Trail, P.W., Espinoza, E.O., 2014. Avian mortality at solar
energy facilities in Southern California: a preliminary analysis.
Kande, S.M., MM, W., SG, G., 2016. Experimental Analysis of Effect of Vegetation under
PV Solar Panel on Performance of Polycrystalline Solar Panel. J. Fundam. Renew.
Energy Appl. 6 (5)
Kiesecker, J.M., Evans, J.S., Fargione, J., Doherty, K., Foresman, K.R., Kunz, T.H.,
Naugle, D., Nibbelink, N.P., Niemuth, N.D., 2011. Win-win for wind and wildlife: A
vision to facilitate sustainable development. PLoS One 6, 18. Doi: 10.1371/journal.
Li, D., Waller, D., 2015. Drivers of observed biotic homogenization in pine barrens of
central wisconsin. Ecology 96, 10301041.
Li, J., Okin, G.S., Alvarez, L., Epstein, H., 2007. Quantitative effects of vegetation cover
on wind erosion and soil nutrient loss in a desert grassland of southern New Mexico,
USA. Biogeochemistry 85 (3), 317332.
Lin, C.C., Krommenhoek, P.J., Watson, S.S., Gu, X., 2016. Depth proling of degradation
of multilayer photovoltaic backsheets after accelerated laboratory weathering:
Cross-sectional Raman imaging. Sol. Energy Mater. Sol. Cells 144, 289299. https://
Lovich, J.E., Ennen, J.R., 2011. Wildlife Conservation and Solar Energy Development in
the Desert Southwest, United States. Bioscience 61, 982992.
Mani, M., Pillai, R., 2010. Impact of dust on solar photovoltaic (PV) performance:
Research status, challenges and recommendations. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 14
(9), 31243131.
Marrou, H., Dufour, L., Wery, J., 2013a. How does a shelter of solar panels inuence
water ows in a soil-crop system? Eur. J. Agron. 50, 3851.
Marrou, H., Guilioni, L., Dufour, L., Dupraz, C., Wery, J., 2013b. Microclimate under
agrivoltaic systems: Is crop growth rate affected in the partial shade of solar panels?
Agric. For. Meteorol. 177, 117132.
Marrou, H., Wery, J., Dufour, L., Dupraz, C., 2013c. Productivity and radiation use
efciency of lettuces grown in the partial shade of photovoltaic panels. Eur. J. Agron.
44, 5466.
McCrary, M., McKernan, P., Wagner, W., 1984. Wildlife interactions at solar one: nal
report. Rosemead, CA.
Mead, R., Willey, R.W., 1980. The concept of a ‘land equivalent ratioand advantages in
yields from intercropping. Exp. Agric. 16 (3), 217228.
Mejia, F., Kleissl, J., Bosch, J.L., 2014. The effect of dust on solar photovoltaic systems.
Energy Proc. 49, 23702376.
Milbrandt, A.R., Heimiller, D.M., Perry, A.D., Field, C.B., 2014. Renewable energy
potential on marginal lands in the United States. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 29,
Montag, H., Parker, G., Clarkson, T., 2016. The effects of solar farms on local
biodiversity: a comparative study.
Moore-OLeary, K.A., Hernandez, R.R., Johnston, D.S., Abella, S.R., Tanner, K.E.,
Swanson, A.C., Kreitler, J., Lovich, J.E., 2017. Sustainability of utility-scale solar
energy critical ecological concepts. Front. Ecol. Environ. 15 (7), 385394. https://
Munson, S.M., Belnap, J., Okin, G.S., 2011. Responses of wind erosion to climate-induced
vegetation changes on the Colorado Plateau. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108 (10),
Nations, U., 2015. Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable
development. United Nations, New York. New York.
Neilly, H., Nordberg, E.J., VanDerWal, J., Schwarzkopf, L., 2018. Arboreality increases
reptile community resistance to disturbance from livestock grazing. J. Appl. Ecol. 55
(2), 786799.
Nordberg, E., Ashley, J., Hoekstra, A.A., Kirkpatrick, S., Cobb, V.A., 2021. Small nature
preserves do not adequately support large-ranging snakes: Movement ecology and
site delity in a fragmented rural landscape. Glob. Ecol. Conserv. 28, e01715.
Nordberg, E.J., Schwarzkopf, L., 2019. Reduced competition may allow generalist
species to benet from habitat homogenization. J. Appl. Ecol. 56 (2), 305318.
Nowak, D.J., Crane, D.E., Stevens, J.C., 2006. Air pollution removal by urban trees and
shrubs in the United States. Urban For. Urban Green. 4 (3-4), 115123. https://doi.
Oreski, G., Wallner, G.M., 2005. Aging mechanisms of polymeric lms for PV
encapsulation. Sol. Energy 79 (6), 612617.
Parker, G.E., McQueen, C., 2013. Can Solar Farms Deliver Signicant Benets for
Peschel, T., 2010. Solar parks Opportunities for Biodiversity: A report on biodiversity in
and around ground-mounted photovoltaic plants. Renews Spec. 334.
Phalan, B., Onial, M., Balmford, A., Green, R.E., 2011. Reconciling Food Production and
Biodiversity Conservation: Land Sharing and Land Sparing Compared. Science (80-.)
333 (6047), 12891291.
Popovici, C.G., Hudis
¸teanu, S.V., Mateescu, T.D., Chereches
¸, N.-C., 2016. Efciency
Improvement of Photovoltaic Panels by Using Air Cooled Heat Sinks. Energy Proc.
85, 425432.
Relyea, R.A., 2005. The lethal impact of roundup on aquatic and terrestrial amphibians.
Ecol. Appl. 15 (4), 11181124.
REN21, 2019. Renewables 2019: Global Status Report.
Rodale Institute, 2014. Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change.
Seidlova, L., Verlinden, M., Gloser, J., Milbau, A., Nijs, I., 2009. Which plant traits
promote growth in the low-light regimes of vegetation gaps? Plant Ecol. 200 (2),
Semeraro, T., Pomes, A., Del Giudice, C., Negro, D., Aretano, R., 2018. Planning ground
based utility scale solar energy as green infrastructure to enhance ecosystem
services. Energy Policy 117, 218227.
E.J. Nordberg et al.
Solar Energy 228 (2021) 586–593
Sinha, P., Hoffman, B., Sakers, J., Althouse, L., 2018. Best Practices in Responsible Land
Use for Improving Biodiversity at a Utility-Scale Solar Facility. Case Stud. Environ. 2,
1.16-12. Doi: 10.1525/cse.2018.001123.
Trainor, A.M., McDonald, R.I., Fargione, J., 2016. Energy sprawl is the largest driver of
land use change in United States. PLoS One 11, 116. Doi: 10.1371/journal.
Tsilini, V., Papantoniou, S., Kolokotsa, D.D., Maria, E.A., 2015. Urban gardens as a
solution to energy poverty and urban heat island. Sustain. Cities Soc. 14, 323333.
Turney, D., Fthenakis, V., 2011. Environmental impacts from the installation and
operation of large-scale solar power plants. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 15 (6),
Valle, B., Simonneau, T., Sourd, F., Pechier, P., Hamard, P., Frisson, T., Ryckewaert, M.,
Christophe, A., 2017. Increasing the total productivity of a land by combining mobile
photovoltaic panels and food crops. Appl. Energy 206, 14951507.
Vanbergen, A.J., Garratt, M.P., Vanbergen, A.J., Baude, M., Biesmeijer, J.C., Britton, N.
F., Brown, M.J.F., Brown, M., Bryden, J., Budge, G.E., Bull, J.C., Carvell, C.,
Challinor, A.J., Connolly, C.N., Evans, D.J., Feil, E.J., Garratt, M.P., Greco, M.K.,
Heard, M.S., Jansen, V.A.A., Keeling, M.J., Kunin, W.E., Marris, G.C., Memmott, J.,
Murray, J.T., Nicolson, S.W., Osborne, J.L., Paxton, R.J., Pirk, C.W.W., Polce, C.,
Potts, S.G., Priest, N.K., Raine, N.E., Roberts, S., Ryabov, E.V., Shar, S., Shirley, M.
D.F., Simpson, S.J., Stevenson, P.C., Stone, G.N., Termansen, M., Wright, G.A., 2013.
Threats to an ecosystem service: Pressures on pollinators. Front. Ecol. Environ. 11,
Visser, E., Perold, V., Ralston-Paton, S., Cardenal, A.C., Ryan, P.G., 2019. Assessing the
impacts of a utility-scale photovoltaic solar energy facility on birds in the Northern
Cape, South Africa. Renew. Energy 133, 12851294.
Voronko, Y., Eder, G.C., Knausz, M., Oreski, G., Koch, T., Berger, K.A., 2015. Correlation
of the loss in photovoltaic module performance with the ageing behaviour of the
backsheets used. Prog. Photovoltaics Res. Appl. 23 (11), 15011515. https://doi.
Walston, L.J., Mishra, S.K., Hartmann, H.M., Hlohowskyj, I., McCall, J., Macknick, J.,
2018. Examining the Potential for Agricultural Benets from Pollinator Habitat at
Solar Facilities in the United States. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52 (13), 75667576.
Walston, L.J., Rollins, K.E., LaGory, K.E., Smith, K.P., Meyers, S.A., 2016. A preliminary
assessment of avian mortality at utility-scale solar energy facilities in the United
States. Renew. Energy 92, 405414.
Ward Thompson, C., Roe, J., Aspinall, P., Mitchell, R., Clow, A., Miller, D., 2012. More
green space is linked to less stress in deprived communities: Evidence from salivary
cortisol patterns. Landsc. Urban Plan. 105 (3), 221229.
Wolch, J.R., Byrne, J., Newell, J.P., 2014. Urban green space, public health, and
environmental justice: The challenge of making cities just green enough. Landsc.
Urban Plan. 125, 234244.
Yapp, G., Walker, J., Thackway, R., 2010. Linking vegetation type and condition to
ecosystem goods and services. Ecol. Complex. 7 (3), 292301.
Yow, D.M., 2007. Urban Heat Islands: Observations, Impacts, and Adaptation. Geogr.
Compass 1, 12271251.
Zhang, X., Xu, M., 2020. Assessing the effects of photovoltaic powerplants on surface
temperature using remote sensing techniques. Remote Sens. 12 (11), 1825. https://
E.J. Nordberg et al.
... Only the combination of the economic and nature dimension remains hypothetical for now. Nordberg et al. [72] too identified this gap and suggest future research on the synergies between electricity production, agriculture and biodiversity improvements. ...
Full-text available
Development of ground-mounted solar power plants (SPP) is no longer limited to remote and low population density areas, but arrives in urban and rural landscapes where people live, work and recreate. Societal considerations are starting to change the physical appearance of SPPs, leading to so-called multifunctional SPPs. In addition to electricity production, multifunctional SPP produce food, deliver benefits for flora and fauna, mitigate visual impact or preserve cultural heritage. In this paper, we systematically examine the different spatial configurations of multifunctional SPPs that reflect a range of contemporary societal considerations. The purpose of this research is to create and test an SPP typology that can support evidence-based and transparent decision-making processes, from location finding to implementation. Comparative case analysis, expert interviews and questionnaires are used to distinguish different types of SPP. We propose a typology that consists of four dimensions: energy, economic, nature and landscape. These dimensions lead to three main types of multifunctional SPP: mixed-production, nature-inclusive, landscape-inclusive, and their combinations. This typology supports decision-making processes on solar power plants and adds to the existing (solar) energy landscape vocabulary. In doing so, the research supports the transformation of energy systems in a way that meets both the quantitative goals and qualitative considerations by society.
... As a result of many years of experience, some general recommendations have been developed on how to design and where to locate solar farms. Designing solar farms for synergistic commercial and conservation outcomes is discussed in more detail in the work [50]. The current structure of photovoltaic systems in Poland is discussed in [51]. ...
Full-text available
The presented paper shows a hypothetical large solar farm that would be the only source of electricity for the entire country. The energy crisis in Europe raises the question of whether it is possible to supply an electrical system based only on renewable energy sources. What should the surface area of the solar panels be in a hypothetical large solar farm to power the entire country? In this work, we will show what requirements must be met to make this feasible. Very important differences between the installed power capacity in a coal-fired or nuclear power plant and a solar power plant are discussed. The article presents calculations of the surface area of photovoltaic panels in that solar farm for four exemplary countries in Central Europe: Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. These studies are particularly important for Poland, whose electrical system is still mainly based on coal-fired power plants. The hypothetical solar farm could, in practice, take the form of dozens of solar power plants located in different parts of the country. Most importantly, the proposed solution will counteract climate change.
... The AVS technology is gaining popularity in variable-scale applications due to its reliability, and sustainability in land use for clean energy generation, viable techno-economic system, and fulfillment of the social need of the human race (Bhandari et al., 2021;Mamun et al., 2022). Almost 100 countries have the excellent status of photovoltaic installations, and their average energy production is 4.5 kWh/kW/day (Nordberg et al., 2021). Therefore, the Governments of many countries e.g. ...
Energy and food security is alarmed by the influences of climate change, population, and world economic growth. In this perspective, the co-located agrivoltaic system, a nexus of photovoltaic and agriculture production, is more suitable to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of a country like India. An experimental investigation has been conducted at CUTM, Odisha through a portable and adjustable agrivoltaic system of 0.675 kWp capacity in 11 m 2 of land area to study the enhancement of land productivity and revenue of farmers or/and investors. This system provides an underneath farming of 1.5 kg turmeric as a shadow tolerant medicinal crop. Major performance indicators of the project such as land equivalent ratio, benefit-cost ratio, price-performance ratio, and payback period have been found as 1.73, 1.71, 0.79, and 9.49 years respectively. Further, the temperature level is decreased by 1-1.5°C resulting in the improvement of the energy generation in the system and successfully tested in dual DC micro-grid solutions having two 12 V 75 Ah solar tubular batteries. This work can be extended to different scales of agrivoltaic systems with suitable crops in th farmers' land, as they are the end-users of this co-located system.
Full-text available
Renewable energy production will require large areas of land; production sites should be designed to include biodiversity conservation. Guidance for decision-makers on reasonable coexistence is needed. We use time-series data alongside a meta-study on birds in solar parks, utilizing succession theory to indicate which bird groups can thrive in solar parks. Using an evidence-based and interdisciplinary approach, we documented biodiversity and conditions at a 6 ha site in the newly created post-mining landscape of Lusatia, Germany, for 16 years, grouping avian species depending on the ecosystem state in which they were observed. In a key mid-period of early succession lasting eight years, the avifauna was characterized by successional groups 2, herbaceous plant-preferring, ground-breeding species; and 3, open shrub-preferring species. The preceding and following groups were: (1) pioneer bird species that prefer open ground; and (4), pre-forest species. Comparison of these data with available bird monitoring in solar parks showed that bird species of groups 2 and 3 can also successfully settle in open-space solar parks that have some natural habitat attributes, whereas this is hardly possible for the preceding and following groups. Using this information, opportunities for habitat improvement are facilitated, and potential conflicts can be addressed more purposefully.
Full-text available
Habitat fragmentation and loss are two of the leading causes of species declines world-wide. To mitigate these effects, land managers have engaged two major pathways to conserve biodiversity: land-sparing (set aside for wildlife and conservation) or land-sharing (land is managed to provide benefits for multiple land uses). We examined the movement ecology of a wide-ranging snake in a fragmented landscape as a case study to examine the efficacy of small nature preserves to protect threatened biodiversity. We monitored the movement patterns and habitat use of 25 timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) over the course of four years in a small nature preserve and fragmented agricultural landscape in central Tennessee, USA. Rattlesnakes showed a positive association with rocky cedar barrens and glades, habitat edges, and sites with dense ground cover and relatively open canopy cover. In addition, 49% of all rattlesnake locations fell outside the nature preserve boundary. Most rattlesnakes travelled through the nature preserve and into patchy agricultural areas and rural housing properties while foraging for food and searching for mates. The conservation of species, especially those that have large movement patterns or migratory behaviors, are difficult to protect in a land-sparing or protected area scenario. We highlight that while the nature preserve does not adequately contain timber rattlesnakes throughout the year, it does support the conservation of key habitat for overwintering, which is essential for the survival of this species. A combination of land-sparing and land-sharing are required for the protection and management of this and many other species.
Full-text available
The rapid development of photovoltaic (PV) powerplants in the world has drawn attention on their climate and environmental impacts. In this study, we assessed the effects of PV powerplants on surface temperature using 23 largest PV powerplants in the world with thermal infrared remote sensing technique. Our result showed that the installation of the PV powerplants had significantly reduced the daily mean surface temperature by 0.53 • C in the PV powerplant areas. The cooling effect with the installation of the PV powerplants was much stronger during the daytime than the nighttime with the surface temperature dropped by 0.81 • C and 0.24 • C respectively. This cooling effect was also depended on the capacity of the powerplants with a cooling rate of −0.32, −0.48, and −0.14 • C/TWh, respectively, for daily mean, daytime, and nighttime temperature. We also found that the construction of the powerplants significantly decreased the surface albedo from 0.22 to 0.184, but significantly increased the effective albedo (surface albedo plus electricity conversion) from 0.22 to 0.244, suggesting conversion of solar energy to electrical energy is a major contributor to the observed surface cooling. Our further analyses showed that the nighttime cooling in the powerplants was significantly correlated with the latitude and elevation of the powerplants as well as the annual mean temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). This means the temperature effect of the PV powerplants depended on regional geography, climate and vegetation conditions. This finding can be used to guide the selection of the sites of PV powerplants in the future.
Full-text available
Shea Vitellaria paradoxa trees bear fruit and seeds of considerable economic, nutritional and cultural value in the African Sudano‐Sahelian zone. In much of West Africa, shea exists within an agroforestry system referred to as ‘parkland’, where social changes, including migration, have resulted in expanding areas of crop cultivation, reductions in both the area of fallow land and the duration of fallow periods, and reduced diversity of habitats and woody species. Shea benefits strongly from pollination by bees and the loss of Parkland biodiversity may reduce the availability of pollinators, leading to pollen limitation and reductions in fruit yields. We investigated whether shea trees in southern Burkina Faso experienced pollination limitation, and whether local‐ and landscape‐scale diversity were linked to visitation by bees, the degree of limitation observed and the weight of fruit produced. Honeybees Apis mellifera were observed more frequently in diverse sites, whereas non‐Apis species were generally widespread but visited trees in greater numbers at diverse sites. We found that shea fruit production was significantly limited due to lack of pollination and that the degree of pollination limitation was greater in sites with lower levels of tree and shrub diversity. Synthesis and applications. Sites with greater diversity of tree and shrub species had more bee visits and less extreme pollination limitation than less diverse sites, indicating that small‐scale diversity is associated with more efficient pollination services. Consequently, shea yields are likely to benefit from retention of a range of different tree and shrub species in parklands. We recommend that when fallows are cleared for cultivation, such beneficial plants are retained within cultivated fields, and that measures to conserve pollinators in the region should target both A. mellifera and non‐Apis bee species. Les arbres du karité Vitellaria paradoxa portent des fruits et des graines qui ont une importance considérable au niveau économique, nutritif et culturel dans la zone Soudano‐Sahélienne de l'Afrique. Le karité fait partie d'un système agroforestier dit ‘parkland’ ou savane arborée, là où, suite aux changements sociaux, la surface cultivée a augmenté alors que les jachères ont vu leur surface et durée diminuer entrainant une réduction de la diversité des habitats et des espèces ligneuses. Le karité bénéfice fortement de la pollinisation par les abeilles, et il se peut que la perte de diversité dans les savanes arborées réduise la disponibilité des insectes pollinisateurs, ce qui mène à la limitation de la pollinisation et aux réductions des rendements de fruits. Ici, nous étudions si les arbres du karité dans le sud du Burkina Faso sont affectés par la limitation de pollinisation, et s'il y a un lien entre la diversité au niveau du site ou du paysage et le niveau de limitation de pollinisation, la présence des abeilles et le poids des fruits rendus par les arbres. Nous avons trouvé que les Apis mellifera visitent plus souvent, et les autres espèces d'abeilles sauvages (particulièrement les Hypotrigona ruspoldii) visitent plus abondamment, les karités dans les sites où la diversité des espèces ligneuses est plus grande. En plus, nous avons trouvé que la production de fruit du karité est significativement limitée par le manque de pollinisation, et que la limitation est plus importante dans les sites où la diversité des espèces ligneuses est plus petite. Synthèse et applications. Nous concluons qu'il est probable que les rendements de karité soient améliorés par la préservation d'une diversité d'arbres et d'arbustes dans le paysage, et nous recommandons que lorsque les jachères sont cultivées, ces plants avantageux soient préservés. Dans le futur, la gestion devrait soutenir la conservation des A. mellifera ainsi que les abeilles d'autres espèces. Sites with greater diversity of tree and shrub species had more bee visits and less extreme pollination limitation than less diverse sites, indicating that small‐scale diversity is associated with more efficient pollination services. Consequently, shea yields are likely to benefit from retention of a range of different tree and shrub species in parklands. We recommend that when fallows are cleared for cultivation, such beneficial plants are retained within cultivated fields, and that measures to conserve pollinators in the region should target both Apis mellifera and non‐Apis bee species.
Full-text available
Power demands are set to increase by two-fold within the current century and a high fraction of that demand should be met by carbon free sources. Among the renewable energies, solar energy is among the fastest growing; therefore, a comprehensive and accurate design methodology for solar systems and how they interact with the local environment is vital. This paper addresses the environmental effects of solar panels on an unirrigated pasture that often experiences water stress. Changes to the microclimatology, soil moisture, water usage, and biomass productivity due to the presence of solar panels were quantified. The goal of this study was to show that the impacts of these factors should be considered in designing the solar farms to take advantage of potential net gains in agricultural and power production. Microclimatological stations were placed in the Rabbit Hills agrivoltaic solar arrays, located in Oregon State campus, two years after the solar array was installed. Soil moisture was quantified using neutron probe readings. Significant differences in mean air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and soil moisture were observed. Areas under PV solar panels maintained higher soil moisture throughout the period of observation. A significant increase in late season biomass was also observed for areas under the PV panels (90% more biomass), and areas under PV panels were significantly more water efficient (328% more efficient).
Full-text available
1.Complex environments support high biodiversity and diverse microhabitat availability, which may reduce the intensity of competition among species. Both natural and anthropogenic disturbances reduce the structural complexity of habitats, leading to homogenization. High abundances of common, generalist species in disturbed habitats may be driven by reduced competition from specialists in similar habitats. 2.We quantified habitat availability for and utilization of three co‐occurring arboreal geckos (Australian native house geckos [Gehyra dubia], northern velvet geckos [Oedura castelnaui], and eastern spiny‐tailed geckos [Strophurus williamsi]) in four replicated grazing regimes in an experimental grazing trial in northeast Queensland, Australia. 3.Native house geckos were most abundant in heavily grazed habitats, whereas the two other species rarely co‐occurred (either with each other or with native house geckos). Geckos displayed resource partitioning of habitat features, such as tree species and structural characteristics. 4.We found evidence of interspecific competition among gecko species, in which native house geckos shifted their habitat selection in the presence of velvet geckos. In the absence of other geckos, native house geckos preferred rough, peeling bark and dead trees; yet in the presence of velvet geckos, native house geckos shifted away from dead trees, and used more structurally complex trees, probably due to high niche overlap with velvet geckos. 5.Native house geckos were more resistant to the negative effects of livestock grazing than either velvet or spiny‐tailed geckos. In the absence of other species, native house geckos used a wider range of microhabitats. 6.Synthesis and applications. Species assemblages are often the results of multiple or complex factors, including predation pressure, habitat availability, or competitive interactions. The homogenizing effects on habitat structure caused by livestock grazing reduce diversity and suitability for microhabitat specialists. Reduced competition can therefore promote the abundance of microhabitat generalist species, such as Australian native house geckos, suggesting that livestock grazing leads to homogenization and simplification of habitat structure, which ultimately leads to changes in species composition through reduced competition. Understanding species’ responses to disturbance, and more broadly, habitat complexity, is crucial for maintaining or increasing biological diversity in anthropogenically modified landscapes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Full-text available
Development of a utility-scale solar photovoltaic project involves management of various potential environmental impacts, including impacts on wildlife and habitat. Although solar facility construction activities do involve short-term disturbance, responsibly developed solar power plants can provide shelter, protection, and stable use of land to support biodiversity. Land use practices and their relationship to biodiversity are examined at one of the world’s largest solar facilities, the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farms project in San Luis Obispo County, CA, USA. Pre- and postconstruction biological monitoring data indicate similar to higher vegetation productivity on-site compared to reference sites. Postconstruction monitoring has documented the presence of dozens of wildlife species, including several with special conservation status. Best practices in responsible land use utilized in the Topaz project are specified in the categories of community, biology, water, design and construction, and end of life. These practices, as well as future solar project development innovations that reduce ground disturbance, can be applied to enhance biodiversity at other solar facilities.
Human activities have reduced the carrying capacity of many estuarine systems by degrading and removing habitat. Artificial reefs may increase estuarine rocky‐reef habitat, but our understanding of their ecological impact is limited. In particular, the question of whether fish on artificial structures are produced by the habitat or attracted from nearby natural rocky‐reefs is of concern. We used baited remote underwater video at artificial reef sites and nearby natural reef sites to investigate the influence of artificial reefs on fish abundance in estuaries with low amounts of natural rocky‐reef. We measured total fish abundance and the abundance of three species of fisheries importance (all in the family Sparidae) before artificial reef deployment (Reefballs®), 1 year after and 2 years after. This design was replicated in three widely separate estuaries over 4 years. During the 2 years post‐deployment, abundance of Sparidae fish increased on both artificial and natural rocky‐reefs, even when artificial reefs were deployed in different years and seasons. Total fish abundance increased at artificial reef sites with no evidence of change at natural rocky‐reef sites. Our findings provide evidence that the fish seen on artificial reefs were not attracted from the nearby rocky‐reefs and were likely ‘produced’ by the addition of artificial reefs in these estuaries. Artificial reefs can increase the carrying capacity in these estuaries by providing refuge that would otherwise be unavailable. Synthesis and applications. The increased fish abundance in three estuaries at both artificial reef and natural reef locations shows that purpose‐built artificial reefs can be used in conjunction with restoration/protection of existing natural habitat, to increase estuarine carrying capacity and fish abundance. This may be for fisheries enhancement or estuarine restoration. The increased fish abundance in three estuaries at both artificial reef and natural reef locations shows that purpose‐built artificial reefs can be used in conjunction with restoration/protection of existing natural habitat, to increase estuarine carrying capacity and fish abundance. This may be for fisheries enhancement or estuarine restoration.
Photovoltaic greenhouses are mixed systems, combining electricity and agricultural production in the same area. Moreover, this type of greenhouse conserves all the properties of a conventional greenhouse, as well as offering the possibility of producing and selling electricity. The aim of the present study is to assess both the impact of the shade caused by the photovoltaic panels on the microclimate and the quality of fruits in the greenhouse. Measurements were carried out in an experimental Canary type greenhouse covered with flexible photovoltaic panels on 10% of its total roof area. Results illustrate that this occupancy rate of the photovoltaic panels arranged in checkerboard pattern does not have a significant effect on the agronomic parameters e.g. height, stem diameter and tomato yield, and climatic parameters under the greenhouse cover. Additionally, the presence of photovoltaic panels has a negative effect on the development of the population of Tuta absoluta.