UI-led team wins $ 10 million to research crop, solar panel combinations | College-Illinois

Urbana — The crops at the University of Illinois Energy Farm in Urbana will soon have some new neighbors. It is a solar panel.

Armed with a $ 10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a team of UI-led researchers will study whether crop and panel combinations can coexist as well as benefit farmers in terms of yield. It will take four years to come. , Energy production and profits.

This practice is named “agrivoltaics” and uses the same land for agriculture and solar panels. It was invented in the 1980s. This term was coined in 2011.

A UI-driven agricultural project called “Sustainable Agriculture and Solar Power Systems” or SCAPES is the Sustainability of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the request of the UI Sustainability, Energy and Environment Institute. Receive a grant from a successful agricultural system program. ..

Madhu Khaanna, a related director of the institute and a prominent professor of environmental economics at ACES University, will serve as a senior researcher. As she explained, with the increasing profitability of solar panels and the energy they generate, crops are directly competing for unobstructed sunlight land spaces.

Studying optimal placement in the field can benefit both landowners and the world’s renewable energy production by combating climate change infringement.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the density and mixing of field panels and crops, and what type of panel we need,” Kanna said. “We want this new system to be compatible with existing equipment and crop varieties that farmers are already using, reducing barriers to adoption.”

Project researchers will create and study these agricultural arrays in two environments, apart from the Urbana Energy Farm, at Colorado State University and at the University of Arizona, where Biosphere 2, the world’s largest closed ecosystem, is located. ..

Trade economist Kanna concentrates her first analysis on the cost-benefit side of the farmer. Her team includes various professionals such as crop physiologists and solar engineers, as well as Dennis Bowman, a UI extension educator to help landowners become accustomed to the practice.

Researchers from the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, Auburn University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the National Institute of Renewable Energy will join the team.

Researchers discover how different crops succeed in different panel patterns, but want the information to be economically feasible and practical.

“The competition for land will intensify, which will minimize food and fuel competition,” Kanna said. “We need to work together to make this happen, and we want to be able to demonstrate how it works for farmers in the PV industry.”

As Kanna suspects, some crops may benefit from the additional shaded solar panels offered in different parts of the day. They analyze how corn, soybeans, sorghum, and many other crops are yield-successful in each environment, and use environmental modeling in other regions such as the US “Corn Belt.” Estimate the overall survey results.

The team will announce an educational app for kids to download and play. This can show how an agricultural setup works compared to classic crop and solar panel layouts.

First Spring Steps: Plant crops between rows of UI-specific Solar Farm 2.0 panels and see how they work.

Some countries, especially Japan, provide subsidies for this type of field energy production. This is an opportunity for Kanna and her research team to investigate the benefits of the state side.

“We are very pleased that the funding has been provided. A very enthusiastic project team is waiting for the start,” said Khana. “We are pleased to be the first to investigate this in the United States.”

UI-led team wins $ 10 million to research crop, solar panel combinations | College-Illinois

Source link UI-led team wins $ 10 million to research crop, solar panel combinations | College-Illinois

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