Agrivoltaics Project

Project Overview

icon-natureThe Agrivoltaics Project fits into two iSEE research themes: Energy Transitions and Secure & Sustainable Agriculture. It began with iSEE proposal development support in the Institute’s Campus as a Living Laboratory program, and in 2021 it was funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

In Lead Investigator Madhu Khanna’s words: “For centuries, humans have used the benefits of the sun to produce food and energy — and only in recent decades has humanity turned to harvesting solar for renewable energy. But to produce solar energy at the utility scale is land intensive, and cropland is often the most suitable for this purpose.”

While solar has become more profitable for land use, concerns have arisen that it could cut into food production. And some counties have now prohibited large-scale photovoltaic arrays from replacing agriculture on their land.

“Agrivoltaics — co-locating energy and food production — has the potential to reduce this competition for land,” said Khanna, the ACES Distinguished Professor of Agricultural & Consumer Economics at Illinois. “Our proposed project for Sustainably Colocating Agricultural and Photovoltaic Electricity Systems (SCAPES) will provide a comprehensive analysis of the transformative potential of agrivoltaics. Our goal is to maintain or even increase crop yield, increase the combined (food and electricity) productivity of land, and diversify and increase farmers’ profits with row crops, forage, and specialty crops across a range of environments.”

Project News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it is funding a new project led by iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna to optimize design for “agrivoltaic” systems — fields with both crops and solar panels — that will maintain crop production, produce renewable energy, and increase farm profitability.

This $10 million, four-year project, funded through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as the lead institution, will study agrivoltaics in a variety of land types and climate scenarios (Illinois, Colorado, Arizona).

Illinois agrivoltaics investigators include Khanna; Carl Bernacchi, USDA Agricultural Research Service Plant Physiologist; Bruce Branham, Professor of Crop Sciences; Evan H. DeLucia, Arends Professor Emeritus of Plant Biology; D.K. Lee, Professor of Crop Sciences; Kaiyu Guan, Associate Professor of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences; Chad Lane, Associate Professor of Education in the Cognitive Science of Teaching and Learning; Nenad Miljkovic, Asssociate Professor of Mechanical Science & Engineering; Samantha Lindgren, Assistant Professor of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership; Nuria Gomez-Casanovas, Visiting Research Specialist at iSEE; and Bin Peng, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The Illinois team will partner with Dennis Bowman at the U of I Extension for agrivoltaics outreach activities. Additionally, the grant features a combination of research, education, and extension subawards for the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, Auburn University, the University of Chicago, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Read the full iSEE news release >>>

The Team

Principal Investigator and co-PIs (University of Illinois unless otherwise noted)


Supporting Personnel: Faculty, Scientists, Postdocs, and Students (University of Illinois unless otherwise noted)


External Evaluator

  • Amber Saylor Mase, Evaluation Specialist, Natural Resources Institute, University of Wisconsin Madison
    Her departmental page >>>

Publications & Presentations

Coming soon!