Conceptual Design and Rationale for a New Agrivoltaics Concept: Pasture-Raised Rabbits and Solar Farming
Journal of Cleaner Production
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Land-use conflicts created by the growth of solar photovoltaics (PV) can be mitigated by applying the concept of agrivoltaics, that is, the co-development of land for both PV and agricultural purposes, to commercial-scale solar installations. In this study, we present a conceptual design for a novel agrivoltaic system based on pasture-fed rabbit farming and provide the technical, environmental and economic analyses to demonstrate the viability of the concept. Included in our analysis are the economic advantages to the PV operator of grazing rabbits at a density sufficient to control vegetative growth, thus reducing the economic and environmental costs of mowing; the dual-revenue stream from the sale of both rabbits and electricity, contrasted with estimates of the capital-investment costs for rabbits co-located with, and also independent of, PV; and the economic value to the rabbit farmer of higher colony-growth rates (made possible by the shading and predator protection provided by the PV arrays and of reduced fencing costs, which are the largest capital cost, by being able to leverage the PV systems for rabbit fencing. We also provide an environmental analysis that suggests that rabbit-PV farming is a pathway to a measurable reduction in agriculturally-generated greenhouse-gas emissions. Our calculations indicate that the co-location of solar and rabbit farms is a viable form of agrivoltaics, increasing overall site revenue by 2.5%–24.0% above projected electricity revenue depending on location and rental/ownership of rabbits, while providing a high-value agricultural product that, on a per weight basis, has significantly less environmental impact than cattle.