Charting the Differences in Plant Growth Between Gardens in the Open and Under Solar Panels


Agrivoltaics is a relatively new arrangement of land use that collocates agriculture and solar photovoltaic panels. Within the context of several ongoing projects testing the practicality of agrivoltaics in the arid climate of southern Arizona, we used a portable photosynthesis analyzer to compare the rates of carbon uptake and water loss in Chiltepin, Jalapño, and Tomato plants grown under solar panels and in the open, as in traditional agriculture. The portable photosynthesis analyzer creates a microenvironment around the leaf that regulates temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity, and light to assess plant functions in ambient and artificial conditions. Two sets of measurements were taken, the first in dry conditions and the second in well-watered conditions. The goal is to gain insight into the tradeoffs of agrivoltaics in terms of photosynthesis and transpiration rates, water use efficiency, fruit production, and plant mass. The project has implications for food and energy production, especially on local scales and in arid regions.


Greg Barron-Gafford

Lab site

Biosphere 2 (B2)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program under Grant # 1340110. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was also made possible by the California State University STEM Teacher and Researcher Program, in partnership with Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org) and Biosphere 2.

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