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Agriculture chiba, rice

Published on February 20th, 2015 | by Jake Richardson

19

Solar Power & Farm Crops Created At The Same Time

February 20th, 2015 by  


In Japan, solar PV systems were approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Spring of 2013 for the practice of solar sharing. Blending solar PV with crop lands was the idea of a Japanese engineer named Akira Nagashima. He created a system that allowed solar panels to collect sunlight and for plants to as well, but they also were provided with some shade to protect them from overexposure.

chiba, rice

Image Credit: Angie, Wiki Commons

For example, a Japanese farmer named Makoto Takazawa has farm land in Chiba Prefecture, where he has both solar PV and crops. He has nearly 350 kW of solar panels mounted on poles 3 meters above ground, and has grown crops like cabbages, eggplants, cucumber, taro, peanuts and yams underneath them. Both the solar panels and the food-bearing plants receive enough sunlight to be productive. Mr. Takazawa can make over $10,000 per year from his solar power system, and something less than $1,000 from growing vegetables. Additional revenue from solar power could help some farmers who have experienced declining incomes from crop sales.

Farmer Tsuboi, located in Aichi Prefecture, has a 50 kW system, with about 600 solar panels located over citrus trees. They are situated about 5 meters above ground on steel pipes. The solar panels could bring in over $20,000 this year. This notion and practice of solar sharing has also spread to other prefectures.

In Fukushima, some farmers are interested in solar sharing because it might help them recoup some of the money they lost due to the radiation exposure and lower sales of their produce. Of course, it makes perfect sense that solar panels would of interest to people who had suffered so much from radiation exposure, and all the fear and stress that resulted during and following the reactor accident.

It also has been suggested that solar PV systems placed above ground could work on pasture lands, because they could provide shade to animals like sheep, cows, and goats.

If you notice a theme in the solar sharing practice, it is one of entrepreneurship or small business management. Farmers are small business people, in addition to being agriculture managers. Solar power could help them be energy independent, and provide a second revenue source, so their economic stability could be bolstered.

A larger issue is the use of land for PV. For Japan to generate all its electricity from solar, about 2.5 million acres of land with solar pv arrays would be needed. Or 7 million acres of land using the solar sharing practice could be utilized, but Japan has over 11 million acres of farm lands, so theoretically solar sharing could contribute greatly to Japan’s energy mix some day.

It should also be noted that energy storage solutions are gradually becoming more robust, and solar panel prices appear to poised to decrease in price even more.

Solar sharing seems to have a great potential to become a major source of clean, renewable electricity in Japan. If Japan can achieve such success, there doesn’t seem to be any major barrier for other nations to trying solar sharing too.


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Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Google Plus.



  • Raahul Kumar

    Very cool, integrating solar energy with farming is an idea that more farmers should take up. A way of doubling the income they make from their land.

    • Curly

      My parents are farmers, I’d love for this to happen. But how do you go about selling electricity for more than a few cents/kWh?

      • Raahul Kumar

        Use it yourself. There is also off peak and peak pricing. If you drive electric vehicles, the price of fuel is now zero. There are a more than few ways this could save a farmer money.

        • Curly

          You’re talking about 2 totally different things. The article, and your previous comment, are talking about earning an income. Is this achievable in South East Victoria?
          It’s a beef farm with very little electricity usage, although they were complaining about the supply charge. Maybe a solar system with battery to get them off the grid would be an option. Have to remember that a failure of the system in the middle of summer could result in cows dying from thirst.
          No electric vehicle.
          A good feed in tariff on the house solar system (separate to the farm).

  • jeffhre

    “Solar Power & Farm Crops Created At The Same Time”

    Could also be titled: Humans begin to realize the nature of energy in life – beyond getting filthy rich on black gold.

    Wow clean energy that grows crops and feeds the power grid. Imagine that.

  • Uncle B

    Solar article, but Wind Turbines have farming all around too?

    • Omega Centauri

      WTs and farming have co-existed for decades, so its not news. But PV is generally thought of as consuming land (rather than turning it into limited/controlled access like wind). So a low density layer of panels above ground can still allow the plants to grow is something many don’t yet appreciate.. I think in arid/semiarid land where water is the limiting factor, panels can take out some of the sun, and in principle could concentrate the rainwater, and reduce the need for plants to use water to keep cool from excessive sunlight. Could be a win-win. But costs do matter, how pricey is it to put panels 3-5 meters above ground?

      • Calamity_Jean

        “So a low density layer of panels above ground can still allow the plants to grow is something many don’t yet appreciate. “

        Especially if the panels have glass backs, so that they pass the wavelengths not used for power right on through. Plants don’t use the green wavelengths much (that’s why they are green) so if the panels capture the green but not much of blue or red, the panels and the plants compete hardly at all.

      • I do agree. Cost is still the primary factor. But I am always open for ideas on alternative source of energy and non-conventional farming methods.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No. Can’t farm in a wind farm. I heard that from a coal guy.

      • JamesWimberley

        Truly shocking. I heard that the infrasound distresses the cows and sometimes they have to be slaughtered as with foot-and-mouth disease. I notice you didn’t post photos of the mass graves.

        • Bob_Wallace

          What most people don’t know is that in some of the towers are installed tallow rendering plants that turn the cattle into wind turbine grease.

          These poor fools have been lured to the entrance with trails of cow candy laced with sedatives to allow them to tolerate the infernal screeching noise of the turbines.

          • Philip W

            Guys, send me some of those pills! 🙂

          • jeffhre

            What nonsense. People say the dumbest things. Clearly those are not cows. They are plastic decoys to keep the rabid crows away, that were attracted by the dead vermin, that succumbed to the intense interaction of hypersound waves and EMR pulses emitted by the massive turbines!

  • Awesome timing with this issue. Illinois state pols are proposing a renewables bill that hopefully won’t be worked around. Like all things Illinois politics, there’s nothing nonworkaroundable.

    The reason this is so important is that Illinois, arguably the best farmland in the world, needs an alternative to corn-ethanol. Like 40 to 50 percent of the corn grown is used to make fuel. The faster kinks and bugs can be worked out on deployment of solar PV on farmland – at industrial scale – the better the above legislation has in passing. Btw, Illinois also produces the most nuclear power in the US. So it has to be big and robust. Cool small tech environmentalism doesn’t play in Peoria (Land of Lincoln). That’s where huge bulldozers and scrappers may be built. What’s also interesting is this effort forces the state to move on renewables regardless of what happens to power plant CO2 emissions controls. On the other hand, the legislation still has to pass.

    http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2015/02/19/illinois-legislators-introduce-groundbreaking-clean-energy-bill/

  • JamesWimberley

    Grazing sheep under solar panels is standard in rural English solar farms, which are rarely photographed without cuddly lambs doing their PR bit.

    http://www.pv-magazine.com/fileadmin/PVI_website_pictures/Solarcentury_Sheep_England.jpg

    Multicropping (or multiple use)under solar panels is a no-brainer. It’s tragic to see solar farms in the US Southwest still built on desert land bulldozed clear of life.

    • Will E

      Solar makes a lot of money.
      1000 dollar for growinfg crops
      10000 dollar Solar revenue
      on parking lots car in the shade
      free parking and Solar revenue
      10000 dollar
      for farmers 1000 for the milk
      10000 for Solar revenue
      shade in the desert can be usefull too for the animal desert live.

      • Vijay Kamat

        I have another Idea. Anywhere on the planet, car parks be covered with solar panel, roofs of automobiles have solar roofs and the floor be covered with solar roadways type tiles.

        Energy with less usage of space.

    • Martin

      That is an excellent, there are lots of places in the world, sunny ones, that need shade for crops.
      And the best thing about solar farming, you get revenue 12 months of the year!

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