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Posted: Nov 25, 2012
Photovoltaics for agriculture
(Nanowerk News) If the Sunís energy can be harnessed to power agricultural vehicles, our dependence on polluting fossil fuels and costly biofuels will decrease. New research is helping us to get closer to this vision.
Climate change and ever-increasing dependence on fossil fuels is forcing society to develop new energy sources. In this light, scientists have been looking to support agriculture (an important sector for mankind that requires much energy) through solar power. The EU-funded project 'Renewable energy agricultural multipurpose for farmers' (Ramses) investigated this option.
In recent years, biofuels have been regularly used to power agricultural equipment, calling for use of artificial fertilisers and land that could be used to grow food instead. Solar energy could potentially be more cost efficient than biofuels and hydrogen for producing the required levels of electricity and traction, particularly in Mediterranean agriculture where sunshine is abundant.
With this in mind, the project worked on designing a photovoltaic power generation unit and battery storage to power a vehicle that can be used for agriculture. It also wanted to develop an integrated solar power system for a variety of other uses. After studying the market, designing a prototype and testing it, Ramses evaluated the end result and outlined the positive social and environmental impacts.
While the overall price of producing the solar-powered technology was more expensive than other solutions, the project's results offer a significant research base to further solar power for agriculture. Despite getting much closer to realising such an ambitious solution, future research is still needed to perfect the technology and render it more cost effective. Nonetheless, initial results are very positive and will surely pave the way to a more sustainable vision in creating and managing cleaner energy for agriculture.