A system combining soil grown crops with photovoltaic panels (PV) installed several meters above the ground is referred to as agrivoltaic systems. In this work a patented agrivoltaic solar tracking system named Agrovoltaico®, was examined in combination with a maize crop in a simulation study. To this purpose a software platform was developed coupling a radiation and shading model to the generic crop growth simulator GECROS. The simulation was conducted using a 40-year climate dataset from a location in North Italy, rainfed maize and different Agrovoltaico configurations (that differ according to panel density and sun-tracking set up). Control simulations for an irrigated maize crop under full light were added to results. Reduction of global radiation under the Agrovoltaico system was more affected by panel density (29.5% and 13.4% respectively for double density and single density), than by panel management (23.2% and 20.0% for suntrack and static panels, respectively). Radiation reduction, under Agrovoltaico, affected mean soil temperature, evapotranspiration and soil water balance, on average providing more favorable conditions for plant growth than in full light. As a consequence, in rainfed conditions, average grain yield was higher and more stable under agrivoltaic than under full light. The advantage of growing maize in the shade of Agrovoltaico increased proportionally to drought stress, which indicates that agrivoltaic systems could increase crop resilience to climate change. The benefit of producing renewable energy with Agrovoltaico was assessed using the Land Equivalent Ratio, comparing the electric energy produced by Agrovoltaico cultivated with biogas maize to that produced by a combination of conventional ground mounted PV systems and biogas maize in monoculture. Land Equivalent Ratio was always above 1, it increased with panel density and it was higher with sun tracking than with static panels. The best Agrivoltaico scenario produced twice as much energy, per unit area, as the combination of ground mounted PV systems and biogas maize in monoculture. For this Agrivoltaico can be considered a valuable system to produce renewable energy on farm without negatively affecting land productivity.
- Land use efficiency
- Photovoltaic panels