The Power of Agrivoltaics
When the Bond movie Die Another Day came up with the concept of a satellite that could be positioned anywhere around the globe and could harness solar light and target it on fields and crops that needed it, it may have seemed a little far-fetched. And while the satellite model is not exactly what has so far been replicated, there have been some wonderful advancements in the field of photovoltaics and how it can be used to improve agricultural produce. SBASSE’s own Dr. Nauman Zaffar Butt has been at the forefront of this work.
The field of photovoltaics has now crossed over into the realm of agriculture to produce the budding field of agrivoltaics. Powering agricultural farms through solar energy requires creative designs in both the solar cells as well as how solar cells will be integrated into a solar system that can power agri-farms.
Dr. Butt’s PhD student Hassan Imran has now produced an amazing body of work that helps achieve both of these tasks. Novel materials, novel designs of the heterofacial structure of solar cells, and the employment of two-dimensional layers of graphene or carbon nanotubes can boost the performance of solar cells, achieving almost thermodynamically maximum efficiencies. Creative ways to interface silicon-based and organic-inorganic solar cell technologies helps achieve the best of both worlds.
Finally, Hassan has mathematically modeled the role of soil and orientation of solar panels in achieving high efficiency crop yield from solar enhanced farmlands. This work has immense implications for the country which calls for innovative solutions to address critical problems at the food-energy-water confluence. The quality of his work is evidenced by the articles he has published “along with several conference proceedings” in the world’s leading journals on this topic: the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices; the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics; Solar Energy; and Renewable Energy. The Water-Food-Energy nexus remains one of the six forefront areas being pursued at the SBASSE.
Asad Ullah, Hassan Imran, Zaki Maqsood, Nauman Zafar Butt, Investigation of optimal tilt angles and effects of soiling on PV energy production in Pakistan, Renewable Energy, Volume 139, 2019, Pages 830-843, ISSN 0960-1481, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2019.02.114.