Agroscope, BFH-HAFL

What Are the Most Promising Crops for an Agrivoltaic System?

Agrivoltaics combines energy generation and agricultural production on the same land. Although this system is eliciting increasing interest, its success depends on numerous factors and the most compatible crops have yet to be identified.

Climate change and global population growth are posing challenges for both the energy generation and agricultural production sectors. Photovoltaic installations are a sustainable source of electricity but require land, leading to increased competition with agriculture.

Combining energy generation and agricultural production on the same site

Agrivoltaics was put forward in the 1980s as a solution to this dilemma. Combining energy generation and agricultural production on the same land, the system is based on the fact that plants use only a part of the solar spectrum and of the light they receive daily.

We do not yet have the necessary agronomic knowledge to judge the efficacy of agrivoltaics and determine the most compatible agricultural crops and the system’s potential for development. Agroscope researchers have therefore conducted a systematic review of the literature, analysing around fifty studies on the combination of electricity generation and agricultural production throughout the world.

Place, season, variety and system design determine success

The majority of the studies were concerned with lettuce and tomato crops. Others focused on cereals, maize, potatoes, fruits, or even cattle or sheep production.

Are crops grown in agrivoltaic systems more or less successful than those grown in conventional systems? The literature review highlights the lack of a strong trend. Results differ from one study to the next: yields are sometimes higher, sometimes lower. This is explained by their dependence on a number of factors: local climatic conditions, the season, the variety being cultivated and the design of the photovoltaic system, in particular the rate of roof coverage by solar panels.

A system compatible with demanding crops

At the end of the day, livestock production and potato production seem to be possible on a large scale. In certain conditions, even light-hungry crops like tomatoes and maize appear to be amenable to cultivation in combination with energy production.

On the other hand, it is not possible to define a shade threshold which crops can tolerate with no negative impact on their yields. Scientists therefore instead propose that an optimal daily amount of light be defined for each species.

Experiments on larger areas of land and over several years are still needed to identify the most promising crops and promote the development of agrivoltaics without adversely affecting crop yields.


  • Agrivoltaics is a novel production system being developed worldwide which is eliciting increasing interest.
  • Analysis of the studies conducted to date shows that the success of this approach depends on numerous factors: local climatic conditions, season, the variety being cultivated and system design.
  • Experiments conducted on larger areas of land and over several years are needed to provide us with agronomical data and to develop agrivoltaics without adversely affecting agricultural production.
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