Agrivoltaic setups aren’t new to regular readers of this site as we’ve seen many times that certain crops benefit from the shade solar panels provide; and, the solar panels benefit the farmers by producing clean energy. Now we know that hops, which flavour beer, thrive under solar panels. A German experiment with a special solar setup for hops has proven more successful than expected since the hops fared better against disease.
Which crops thrive under solar panels depends on many factors, and for a crop like hops a default solar field setup is not a good one. Hops like to grow straight up which means that the solar panels need to be elevated high off the ground. The hops then grow up to the solar panels and get lots of benefit from the cooling effects of the panels themselves.
The pilot project — a collaboration between Wimmer and local solar technology company Hallertauer Handelshaus — was set up in the fall of last year. The electricity made at this farm can power around 250 households, and the hops get shade they’ll need more often as climate change turbocharges summer heat.
Solar panels atop crops has been gaining traction in recent years as incentives and demand for clean energy skyrocket. Researchers look into making the best use of agricultural land, and farmers seek ways to shield their crops from blistering heat, keep in moisture and potentially increase yields. The team in Germany says its effort is the first agrivoltaic project that’s solely focused on hops, but projects have sprouted around the world in several countries for a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables.
Efficient of solar panels continues to increase and the costs of installing them keep going down, meaning that there’s never been a better time than now to install solar panels. One of the great things about solar is how scalable it is, you can install a small system on a townhouse to a massive system on fields of land. It all comes down to budget. If you’re in Canada you can make use of the Canada Greener Homes program to get up to $5,000 towards the cost of your solar panels. The faster people move to renewable energy sources the better the chance we have at averting climate catastrophe.
What solar capacity do you need, or can you afford?
The average home in Ontario uses 8,250 kWh of electricity annually (this average will increase over time as buildings are electrified); roughly 10 kW of solar energy capacity would be required to meet that demand. Most homes will be able to fit somewhere between 5 kW and 10 kW so you’ll need to assess your own roof. SolarShare’s Operations & Maintenance Coordinator, Bob Ross, estimates that when accounting for building permits, fees and solar panels, a 5 kW system will cost approximately $18,000, and 10 kW around $28,000. Check outthis calculatorto estimate your potential savings from installing solar panels.
Neighbourhoods in Canada are trying to change the world by focussing on their own street. Across the country there are streets of houses proving that a transition from using fossil fuels to heat and power a home is possible in a country that loves to subsidize the oil and gas industry. And yes, going green saves money too.
The Pocket Change Project provides not only an example of how to convert your neighbourhood but information on how to do it. It may seem like a daunting task to go for fully electric in a place that guzzles gas for homes, but it’s doable and with the guides from Pocket Change it’s easy.
If you’re fortunate enough to own a home then you should you do your part and cut out gas.
When it comes to reducing household emissions, Dowsett is clear-eyed about where he thinks the responsibility lies.
“We who are the affluent ones are the ones who create an outsized carbon problem; people who are less affluent do not,” he said. “I think it’s very disingenuous of us to try and impose austerity on people who are not the problem. We are the problem. We need to change,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “rant over.”
Other Pocket residents echo this sentiment. “I believe that people who are privileged enough have a responsibility to do this,” said Lori Zucchiatti O’Neill. “A lot of people can’t afford to do this, but we can afford to do this. So it’s like, full steam ahead.”
A sustainable home doesn’t need to be off the gird, but for some people interested in sustainability they reach a logical conclusion that off the gird makes sense. Of course, that means not being part of the electric grid and, for some, not even part of a public water system for potable water and sewage. How does one go about creating such a home? Check out the video above for what’s needed to create an efficient off the gird place to live.
Kristina is a structural engineer who designed and helped build this off-grid passive solar home with solar panels, solar hot water heaters, rainwater collection, a composting toilet, and a greywater garden. It’s a pretty impressive and functional Earthship inspired home and she lives here with her partner Matt in Colorado.
Historic sites that attract a lot of tourists know that if they loose their historical look that the tourists will stop coming, so how do you locally produce renewable energy while not looking modern? This question has been answered by the stewards of Pompeii with a simple solar solution. A local solar artisan found a way to manufacture solar panels that look like standard Roman roof tiles. They aren’t the most efficient solar panels but they work and they fit in with the aesthetic.
The traditional PV tiles are made from a polymer compound, which allows the sun’s rays to filter through. The photovoltaic cells are then integrated into it by hand and covered with a layer of the polymer compound. “We can also give it the look of stone, wood, concrete, and brick. As a result, such a solution can be installed not only on roofs but also on walls and floors,” says Quagliato.
Dyaqua’s clients are mainly local councils, owning assets that are subject to artistic or architectural constraints. Approved by the Italian Ministry of Culture, the traditional PV tiles have been also installed in Vicoforte, not far from Cuneo, and will soon be used in Rome’s renowned museum of contemporary art, Maxxi. In the coming months, they will also cover the roofs of some public buildings in Split, Croatia, and Evora, Portugal. Together with Alkmaar, in the Netherlands, the Portuguese city is one of the demo sites that are testing innovative solutions aimed at combining sustainability with the valorization of architectural and cultural heritage, within the European project Pocityf. The Italian company Tegola Canadese is among its technical partners.