Grazing sheep can be combined with solar parks. A new experiment at Tatura is testing whether solar cells and horticulture are compatible.
Agriculture Victoria Research Center scientists installed 90 square meters of solar cells 3.4 meters above a crop of red Lanya pears.
They want to test how the fruits develop in the shadow of the photovoltaic cells.
The frame used for the solar cells was modeled after the Tatura trellis system, which is widely used throughout the Goulburn Valley for training fruit tree growth.
Plant Physiology Research Director Ian Goodwin said the idea was to see if the load-bearing frame could also serve as a grid for new fruit trees in a green meadow.
The first trial was conducted in January and each of the six locations will use embedded sensors to check the fruit surface.
Too much sunshine and the fruit will burn and too little sunshine and the fruit will not color according to the market specifications.
Each test area has enough cells to generate the corresponding electricity for around nine residential buildings. The electricity generated is used to operate an irrigation pump and equipment in a surveillance shed.
Excess electricity can be stored in batteries and exported to the power grid.
The experiments test the alignment and angles of the cells in order to determine an optimal design.
When the Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas started the experiment last week, the temperature in the sun protection was noticeably cooler.
The experiment should prove to be interesting, as there are concerns in horticultural circles about the compatibility of solar cultivation and fruit growing.
Some orchardists have raised concerns about the so-called “heat island” effect of solar parks and its impact on neighboring orchards.
Some large solar panels run sheep on their farms to keep the grass down.