Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
Given that two of Barbados’ most important initiatives at this time are the expansion of the agricultural sector for food security and diversification of the energy supply into
renewables for energy security, I would like to suggest a way in which these two sectors can be combined, for their mutual benefit.
Regarding the development of renewable energy sources, undoubtedly the two most readily accessible sources for this country are wind energy and solar energy. Traditionally, one of the disadvantages of both these is that if on land, they compete with agriculture for precious land space, which is the reason for the development of offshore installations, which are of course much more expensive to install and operate.
An alternative to conventional solar farms, which is already being pioneered in many countries around the world, is the development of what is being termed Agrivoltaic Farming. The idea is to establish solar farms on land, but rather
than installing the solar panels at ground level, to mount the panels on elevated frames, typically 10 to 12 feet above the ground.
With the panels spaced appropriately to give the right proportion of sunlight and shade below the canopy, the land below is ideal for the growing of crops which do not need full sunlight, and require a degree of protection from heavy rainfall. In effect, the solar panels become the modern equivalent of the Immortelle trees, or madre de cacao, used to protect Caribbean cocoa plantations in years gone by. The net effect of the adoption of agrivoltaic farming is the doubling of the productive capacity of the land by simultaneously generating revenue from both agricultural produce and electricity.
Perhaps our agricultural researchers and specialists could look at the possibilities.
Gary N. Voss