Solar panels are similar to plants because they both convert sunlight into either energy or in the plants case nutrients which is then converted to energy. Solar companies are testing to see what possible benefits there are if plants are placed near or underneath solar panels.
The Center for Saffron Research & Development at the University of Vermont began growing saffron underneath solar panels a year ago. This initiative is all thanks to Steve Peck, he is the project director at EPC Peck Solar. Peck solar is providing funding for research, the experiment consists of planting saffron bulbs underneath a solar array located in New Haven, VT.
Margaret Skinner UVM entomologist said the following "The hope would be that it could be demonstrated that a crop can be produced economically on that same area. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the farmer whose land it is and it’s good for the solar people that are putting up arrays.” Another colleague of skinner had this to say “Our hope is that we can show that the land is still agriculture and we can create a viable crop and bring a market and be able to say, ‘No, this has not taken the land out of agricultural use. It’s keeping agriculture in use, in fact. We can double the value of this land to the farmer.”
Saffron is a good choice to pair with solar array, because it is a relatively easy to grow and currently sells for $5,000 a pound. This means that it offers a good return on investment. However other crops are being paired with solar arrays nationwide. In North Carolina honeybee hives are placed along a pollinator friendly solar array, and sheep graze underneath raised solar panels. Hopefully advances like this can continue to be made in the ever growing field of solar. If you would like to read the original article head over to https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2019/02/solarsaffron-experiment-could-pave-the-path-to-more-dual-use-farms/.