Letters to the Editor
THE EDITOR: Given that two of the Government’s most important initiatives at this time are the expansion of the agricultural sector for food security and diversification of the energy sector 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 was that if located 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 instal 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 ten-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 our 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 agricultual researchers at UWI and UTT could look at the possibilities?
GARY N VOSS
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