Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub- Innovation Grant

The University of Melbourne

  • Project code: PRO-017276

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Saturday, April 1, 2023

  • Project completion date: Wednesday, September 25, 2024

  • National Priority: AFI - AgriFood Innovation


Agrivoltaics: A win-win for farmers?
The current challenge and potential solution.
The Australian agricultural sector is pursuing the ambitious goals of becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, all in the face of mounting challenges such as climate change, including droughts, and the demand for social license and environmental credentials.
To reach these goals, transformational innovations at the ‘food, energy and water nexus’ will be required that go beyond incremental change and are distinctively different to our traditional approach. International studies have demonstrated that ‘agrivoltaics’, where food and energy are co-generated on the same area of land rather than competing for land, can boost agricultural productivity, land, and water use efficiencies, and improve soil health.
A considerable body of work is currently being conducted in the agrivoltaics space in Europe and the US, with promising results for widely produced crop types prompting very significant further investments (e.g., the US Dept of Energy announced a new US$ 8M programme in Dec 2022, US Department of Energy 2022). In Australia, several trials have tested the integration of solar energy and sheep grazing (‘solar grazing’) on the same area of land with promising results (Clean Energy Council 2021). In contrast to Europe and North America, and aside from the Solar Energy Program led by Agriculture Victoria (partner to the Victoria Drought & Innovation Hub), little emphasis has been placed on the potential benefits of agrivoltaics on crop production systems in Australia (Colby et al. 2022b). The specific conditions of many agricultural production areas in Australia with high light conditions overlayed by water limitations and heat stress periods, promise an even greater co-benefit potential for agrivoltaic applications. Therefore, there is a gap in knowledge about the potential benefits of agrivoltaics on key crop types and industries across Australia.
Agrivoltaics background, benefits, and uncertainties
The installation of solar panels on the same area of cultivable land where crops are grown allow for the harvest of the energy of the sun twice. This system could assist crops in Australian agro-ecosystems subject to harsh climatic conditions in terms of productivity and water use from the micro-climatic environment created by solar panel installations, while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the solar panels with heat-dampening undergrowth. This is in addition to direct energy creation and environmental credential benefits for growers, aspects that are rapidly gaining importance (Colby et al. 2022a). More broadly, the combination of solar energy capture and agricultural production can help social acceptance of the large areas of solar panels envisaged to be required to help reach Australia’s zero-net emissions goal (see e. g. early results from the international NetZero Australia study: NetZero Australia, 2022)
In detail:

  • Solar panels protect crops from excess light
    •  Crops need sunlight to drive photosynthesis, the key physiological process underpinning crop growth and productivity. However, photosynthesis reaches light saturation at around 800 to 1000 #mol m-2 s-1 of photosynthetic photon flux density (= PPFD, the preferred unit to


AgriFood Innovation

Research Organisation

The University of Melbourne

Objective Summary

In alignment with the eligibility criteria of the AgriFutures Agrifood Innovation Program, the
proposed project will:
A- Conduct a systematic evaluation of existing peer-reviewed studies and results on the effects and potential of agrivoltaics on crop performance relevant to Australian conditions. Initially, this will focus on three Australian levied industries including viticulture, horticulture, and the grains industry. The review will be complemented by consultations with farmers and representatives of the above-mentioned sectors to assess opportunities for incorporating agrivoltaics into production systems and analyse industry requirements and potential pitfalls. Consultations will utilise the Victoria Drought and Innovation Hub network as well as
support from SW Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania Hubs brokered through the AgriFutures Innovation Broker network.
B- Evaluate performance of one selected crop type (grapes) at a demonstration site to generate data-sets required to validate current models and assumptions for Australian conditions.
C- Conduct cost / benefit (including environmental aspects) analyses as well as scalability assessments for Australian growers based on the results of the systematic evaluation and, once available, field study data in order to increase the capacity and confidence of Australian producers to adopt agrivoltaics on farm. Findings and communications will be extended across the Innovation Hub network using partnerships in the Victoria Hub as well as SW Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania through the AgriFutures Innovation Broker network.