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What are the Applications of Solar Energy in Agriculture?

Solar Energy for Agriculture

Solar power is transforming agriculture­ as farmers increasingly adopt rene­wable energy. With rising utility e­xpenses and sustainability worries, the agriculture solar system provides a solution to decrease­ costs and the carbon impact of farm operations.
Agrovoltaics, the co-location of solar pane­ls and crops, presents opportunities. This approach can raise­ land use efficiency, she­lter crops, increase yie­ld per hectare, and re­duce irrigation needs by up to 20%. For e­xample, a German study by the Fraunhofe­r Institute demonstrated an 86% rise­ in efficiency for potato crops using an agrovoltaic system. There are many more advantages of solar energy in agriculture. However, this article­ will discuss the solar energy uses in agriculture, explaining the potential gains for farme­rs for installing solar panel for agriculture.

Advantages of Solar Energy for Agriculture

solar panels used in agriculture

The solar energy uses in agriculture provides many benefits for agricultural operations, including:

Lower Operating Costs

Transitioning to solar energy for agriculture use can significantly lower electricity expenditures, a major cost for farms. Utility rates for the agricultural sector are often higher than residential rates. Installing solar photovoltaic systems enables farms to lock in affordable electricity rates for decades, protecting against rising grid costs. This provides budget stability and frees up capital for other investments. Multiple studies have shown agricultural solar installation can lead to substantial savings on energy bills for farmers.

Energy Independence 

By generating their own energy on-site, growers become self-sufficient and more resilient to adverse weather conditions. During grid outages, solar PV with battery storage provides backup power. They can also smooth out power fluctuations that damage equipment. This ability to maintain operations is essential for livestock safety and avoiding crop losses.

Lower Maintenance

Agrivoltaics panels have minimal moving parts, require little maintenance, and can last over 25 decades. This contrasts with the frequent repairs needed for diesel generators. Low maintenance needs to increase productivity.


Solar electricity offsets greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants. Each 1 MW of agriculture solar system installed avoids hundreds of metric tons of carbon annually. This supports agriculture with solar energy technology as an environmental solution. 

New Revenue 

In some areas, farmers may be able to sell solar renewable energy credits for additional income. Pollinator-friendly sites around solar arrays may also qualify for ecosystem service market credits. Solar infrastructure can increase property value and enhance lease potential.

Agronomic Benefits

Strategic agricultural solar installation can provide partial shade and protection from wind damage. Studies have found that properly sited panels can reduce plant water consumption.


Transitioning to renewable energy can strengthen public trust in the sustainability of farming practices. It displays a forward-thinking approach that appeals to environmentally-minded consumers and partners.

Federal Tax Credits

The federal Solar Investment Tax Credit offers a 30% tax credit for systems installed through 2032. This incentive and accelerated depreciation offset a substantial portion of upfront costs. 

Increased Land Productivity

With agrivoltaic systems, the same acreage can produce solar power and crops when co-location is optimized. Solar can support agriculture through shade provision, land regeneration or other synergies.

Solar Farms On Agricultural Land

Solar Panels On Agricultural Land

Solar farms, called solar power plants or photovoltaic power stations, are large-scale solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. This generate­d power is channeled into the­ electricity grid to cater to the­ energy nee­ds of utilities, businesses, and house­holds. Typically situated on expansive rural agricultural lands, solar farms ne­cessitate considerable­ space. Photovoltaic (PV) panels absorb sunlight photons and convert the­m into electrical currents. The­se solar cells, crafted from se­miconductor materials like silicon or cadmium telluride­, are interconnecte­d to form panels. The main components of solar farms on agricultural land are:

  • PV Arrays – Numerous panels arranged together in rows on mounting structures. Solar tracking systems rotate panels to follow the sun.
  • Inverters – Provide grid-connected AC power from the DC power generated by panels.
  • Transformers – Step up voltage for transmission.
  • Monitoring Systems – Track real-time performance.
  • Transmission Lines – To carry electricity to substations and the grid.
  • Fencing – Perimeter security fencing.

Solar farms range greatly from a couple of megawatts to hundreds of megawatts. At the utility scale, thousands of agrivoltaics panels spread across hundreds of acres are needed to produce meaningful electricity generation. The modular nature of solar lends itself to incremental expansion.

Siting large solar arrays on agricultural lands can provide farmers a stable income stream through land leasing while maintaining ownership. Solar diversifies the revenue generated from the land. However, projects must balance priorities like food production and minimize land use conflicts. Factors like soil quality and irrigation needs determine suitable agricultural parcels for solar farming. 

While solar farms are low maintenance compared to active cropping, some upkeep is required, like vegetation management, access road upkeep, and equipment repairs when needed. Sheep grazing is sometimes integrated around arrays. Beekeeping can also take place on solar farm sites.

With carefully planned locations and agricultural practices, solar farming enables productive dual-use of rural land. Farmers can use these large-scale renewable energy-generating systems to capture added value from the sun.

Solar Water Pumps

Solar water pump

Solar-powere­d water pumps use photovoltaic panels and e­lectric motors to extract water. The­ systems give a clean, re­newable alternative­ to diesel or gas-powere­d pumping for irrigation, livestock, and farm needs.

Solar pump systems are made up of multiple components, including:

  • Photovoltaic panels mounted on the ground or rooftops generate electricity from sunlight.
  • Inverters to convert the solar DC into AC power.
  • An electric pump and motor that uses electricity to drive an impeller, piston, or other apparatus to pull water to the surface.
  • Controller to optimize pumping operation based on power production and water demands.
  • Storage tank to hold pumped water before distribution.
  • Piping network to fetch water to end usage points.

Many configurations and scales exist, from small, portable solar pumps to expansive centralized systems capable of irrigating entire fields. Pump size, lift capacity, and flow rates are tailored to the specific water needs.

Solar pumps eliminate reliance on variable fossil fuel costs and supply chains. They provide energy autonomy and consistent access to groundwater. Solar pumps can be installed to transform irrigation capacity even in remote locations lacking electrical infrastructure. 

Solar pumping also enables precise irrigation compared to set ditch water delivery schedules. By only pumping when water is needed, the overexploitation of groundwater is reduced along with pumping costs.

While solar pumps have higher upfront capital costs, their low operating expenses give them an economic advantage over the long term. Without any fuel to purchase and transport, solar pumps utilize free sunshine. Maintenance is also minimal, with high reliability. Government incentives and microloans can assist farmers with affordability.

Solar water pumping supports expanded food production and income generation through affordable irrigation. Applications include:

  • Drip irrigation for high-value vegetable cultivation
  • Water for grazing livestock away from surface sources
  • Enabling off-season cropping and multi-cycle harvests
  • Irrigating orchards and vines with high water requirements
  • Providing potable water to rural villages

Solar Greenhouse Heaters

Solar Greenhouse Heaters

Greenhouses allow farmers to control conditions for year-round crop cultivation. Heating represents one of the largest energy costs for greenhouses in cool climates. Solar thermal collectors can provide renewable, low-carbon heating to reduce greenhouse operational expenses. 

Solar thermal systems use panels to capture heat from sunlight, which is transferred via hydronic piping to meet greenhouse heating loads. Key components include:

  • Solar Collectors: It is a flat plate or evacuated tube collector containing dark absorber plates to collect solar thermal energy efficiently. 
  • Hydronic Heating System: Pipes filled with water or heat transfer fluid convey heat from collectors to the greenhouse.
  • Thermal Storage Tanks: Store excess collected heat at night or during cloudy weather. Enables 24-hour heating.
  • Heat Exchangers: Transfer collected thermal energy into greenhouse hydronic heating system piping and radiant floors.
  • Controllers: Monitor conditions and manage system operation to optimize efficiency.
  • Mounting Structure: Securely elevates and orients collectors to maximize solar gain.

Solar thermal systems for greenhouses are either active or passive. Active systems use electric pumps to circulate heat transfer fluid, while passive systems rely on gravity and thermosiphon flow. 

Solar collectors can provide 30-80% of a greenhouse’s heating needs during the daytime. Efficiency is maximized by using thermal energy storage and combining solar with biomass or geothermal heating. Installations must be tailored to the greenhouse size, climate, and structural design.

Benefits of solar thermal heating include:

  • Reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint
  • Lock in free, renewable energy to hedge against fuel price volatility
  • Decrease operational expenses and improve profit margins
  • Allow 24-hour temperature maintenance with thermal storage
  • Enhance marketing as a sustainably-grown product

With solar thermal systems sized and integrated properly, greenhouses can get free sunlight to create ideal growing conditions while minimizing environmental impact and costs.


As we’ve seen, solar energy provides many benefits for agricultural operations. From lowering costs to reducing environmental impact, solar enables farms to leverage free sunlight as a sustainable asset. There are diverse applications, from solar water pumps to greenhouse heating, that improve efficiency and resilience. To start capturing the potential of solar power, contact renewable energy experts BLJ Solar. With over 10+ years of experience, we offer high-quality solar products tailored to agricultural needs. Our knowledgeable team can help you transition smoothly to solar. Partner with BLJ Solar to unlock the synergies between solar energy and agriculture.

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