Is It Time to Explore Agrivoltaics? A Growing Solution for Solar Energy on Farms

Plants and solar panels have one major thing in common — they both need the sun.

But instead of competing with one another for land that has good access to the sun’s rays, they’re increasingly benefiting from it together, side by side.

That’s because more farmers are incorporating solar panels into their farmland using an arrangement known as “agrivoltaics.” Also called “agrisolar,” it’s a system where farmers place solar panels on land that is also used for grazing, crop production, or other agricultural purposes.

This dual use of the land allows farmers to reap the financial and ecological benefits of solar without sacrificing land that they could also use for farming purposes. The cooperative relationship that develops between the solar panels and the vegetation or livestock around them can also benefit both land uses.

Could an agrivoltaic solar system be the right choice for your farm? Let’s take a closer look at what it is, the benefits, some potential considerations, and how to get started.

What is Agrivoltaics?

Land that works well for agricultural use also works well to generate solar energy because it’s relatively flat and has widely available sunlight. Instead of choosing one use or the other, agrivoltaics pairs them together.

The arrangement can come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Solar panels placed above or between rows of crops.
  • Solar panels placed on land that’s used for livestock grazing (also known as “solar grazing”).
  • Solar panels placed on land that’s used as a pollinator habitat.
  • Solar panels placed on top of greenhouses.

Agrivoltaic systems are designed to complement their surroundings. They are specially designed to enhance their surrounding environment, strategically sharing sunlight to optimize for the conditions needed to make both crops and solar panels successful. This is often accomplished through “elevated” systems — solar panels that are mounted several feet above crops or grass in a field — or “inter-row” systems, which are panels that are installed in between rows of crops.

It’s a solution that more farmers are turning to. According to data collected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there are nearly 500 agrivoltaic sites around the country, with the combined capacity to produce nearly 8.2 gigawatts of energy. The most common use, according to the data, is to combine solar panels with pollinator habitats or livestock grazing, while a smaller number of sites are connected to crop production.

New projects are continuing to come online. For example, in Iowa, Alliant Energy and Iowa State University are partnering to create a 10-acre agrivoltaic project that will help contribute to research on what plants and techniques work well in that environment.

The Benefits of Agrisolar for Farmers

Agrivoltaics provides several benefits for farmers, including:

Increased Profitability

By using farmland for both agricultural production and to offset energy costs, farmers will reap more financial benefit from their land. Solar panels on farms are eligible for multiple federal incentives and significantly lower energy costs for farmers, which lowers up-front costs and makes solar an even wiser investment.

Improved Land Use

Solar panels give farmers a year-round source of income from areas of their land that otherwise may go unused. At 1 Source Solar, our team works with each farm’s unique needs to strategize the ideal location for their solar array. By placing solar panels in areas that work in tandem with their current farming practices, they enhance the productivity of their farmland.


Using agrivoltaics diversifies a farm’s source of energy. The more solar energy a farmer is able to create on their farm, the more they will be able to stabilize their energy costs and reduce reliance on the volatile energy market. These steady energy savings are independent of how well their crops or livestock perform from year to year, giving them a stable financial benefit.

Environmental Impact

Farmers have always been stewards of the environment, and many are turning to solar energy to enhance their sustainability efforts. Additionally, the advantages of agrisolar can extend beyond simply offsetting energy use. The shade that solar panels provide can help conserve water on farmland by providing shade, moderating temperatures, and reducing crops’ need for transpiration — the process by which plants lose water to cool themselves from the heat.

Working Together: How Solar Panels Can Benefit Agriculture

When you work with a solar engineering company like 1 Source Solar, we will ensure that your solar array is designed in a way that will work hand-in-hand with your agricultural environment — sharing sunlight between crops and solar in an optimal way.

We’ll work with you to look into how solar panels can not only share land with your crops or livestock, but also benefit from them. For example, elevated solar panels can shield crops underneath from damaging weather conditions or provide shade to grazing animals. Crops that do well with some shade can also benefit from the panels that protect them from excess sunlight while still allowing them to receive the amount of sunshine they need.

The relationship is symbiotic. While the panels can help plants, plants can also help the solar panels above them by cooling them with water vapor they produce during hot days.

How to Get Started With Agrivoltaics on Your Farm

Want to learn more about agrivoltaics, and if it could be a good fit for you? Reach out to our team of solar specialists today.

Our expert team will start the process by conducting a site assessment at no cost to you. This will allow us to look at your property and farming operation to discern the best solar array for your needs. Then, we’ll provide you with a cost estimate.

1 Source Solar has worked on agricultural solar projects throughout the Midwest and brings years of experience working alongside farmers. We’ll bring that experience to work with you to find the agrivoltaic array that works best on your farm.

Photo credit: Agrisolar Clearinghouse on

Groud-mounted solar panels sit above rows of plants in a field