Agrivoltaics: The Future of Australian Farming?

The pressures on the Australian agriculture sector are increasing, not least so due to the effects of climate change. In order to ensure that this vital sector remains profitable, and therefore sustainable, new ways of land utilisation need to be explored.

Agrivoltaics, being the simultaneous use of land for both solar photovoltaic power generation and agriculture, was first proposed back in 1981. In its original form, it envisaged installing solar panels above crops or on the roofs of greenhouses, and by 2019 developed to also mean agricultural activity between solar panels, such as grazing.

While there is still a lot of groundwork to be done, Australia seems to be uniquely positioned to benefit from, and pioneer, this method of co-location farming.

How does it work?

The scientific premise of Agrivoltaics is that different crops have different light saturation points, meaning that there is a maximum amount of light that plants can absorb. The light not being used by crops can therefore be used for other purposes, such as electricity generation.

Facility construction generally entails photovoltaic solar panels being spaced in-between crops, installed on arrays above crops (allowing machine access and crop growing), installed on top of greenhouses or installed in such a way that grazing is possible underneath.

While panels were originally installed with space in-between to allow optimum light access, advances in panel transparency, sun tracking and crop monitoring means that panel placing options are ever increasing.


While the benefits of deriving an additional income stream from agricultural land is self-evident, the benefits go even further:

  • The competition for flat, well-located land for agriculture or energy generation is eliminated by co-locating activities.
  • Providing shade coverage leads to water efficiency and the creation of microclimates that extend growing seasons and mitigate the impact of heatwaves, droughts, frost and storms.
  • Increased PV panel performance due to lower soil temperatures.
  • Decentralised electricity generation.
  • Increased land value and risk mitigation through diversification of income streams.
  • Increased energy security.


  • Agrivoltaics is not suited for crops that require high light intensity and may lead to decreased yields for some shade tolerant crops.
  • Slightly higher installation costs for arrays and greenhouses.
  • Excessive crop shading leads to a greater risk of bacterial pathogens developing, which causes a reduced shipping and shelf life for products.

International uptake

The Italian government is investing €1.1 billion to support 2 GW’s of Agrivoltaics as part of its post-COVID recovery plan. French president, Emmanuel Macron, recently announced that Agrivoltaics will become one of the main pillars of France’s energy system. The German federal government is also supportive of Agrivoltaics and have released plans to support the co-location of photovoltaic systems and agricultural land.

Various projects are in different phases of development across the European Union. For example, the Domaine de Nidolères vineyard in France uses an Agrivoltaic system in which PV panels are installed above grapevines to create a drip irrigation system, optimise light exposure, protect crops against weather variations and power 650 homes.


The Australian energy transition, decreased cost of electricity generation, vast land mass, limited transmission network, reliance on agriculture, exposure to severe weather events and abundance of sun could mean that Australia is uniquely positioned to benefit from Agrivoltaics. The Australian government has however not voiced its support for Agrivoltaic projects in the same way as other countries.  Some industry players have however recognised the potential synergies, and test projects are being developed around Australia.

The Future of Australian Farming?

It is clear that there are benefits in crop diversification, and farming energy through Agrivoltaics may be the cash crop the agriculture industry needs. The advances in panel technology and crop management could mean that the elusive goal of living in greater balance with nature may be closer than we thought – and what an exciting prospect that is.

The Hamilton Locke team advises across the energy project life cycle – from project development, grid connection, financing, and construction, including the buying and selling of development and operating projects. For more information, please contact Matt Baumgurtel.