Agrivoltaics: can we combine energy, sustainability and employment?

Can solar panels and crops exist alongside each other? What are the advantages of photovoltaic plants for the areas where they are installed? We will tell you what agrivoltaics is and explain its environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

Herds grazing around the Carmona photovoltaic plant in Seville.
Herds grazing around the Carmona photovoltaic plant in Seville.

According to a study published in the journal Nature, the entire world's demand for electricity could be met if just 1% of the area used for agriculture was combined with the production of solar energy.

This alone gives us an idea of the importance of applying the system known as agrivoltaics: a combination of solar energy production with agricultural use. The idea is to integrate energy, sustainability and employment. And contribute to fighting climate change. 


What is agrivoltaics?

Agrivoltaics, also referred to as agrophotovoltaics and agrisolar, involves taking advantage of the same land for both solar energy production and agricultural production.

“The entire world's demand for electricity could be met if just 1% of the land used for agriculture was combined with photovoltaic production”.

The installation of solar plants on agricultural land makes the soil more humid and protects it from direct sunlight. This creates a more conducive environment for growing some plants.

And by transferring water from crops to the environment, more beneficial spaces are generated for the operation of solar panels.

But the benefits of agrivoltaics extend beyond agricultural use and preserving biodiversity: it also creates value for local communities, improving access to energy and fostering social and economic development.


Jobs in photovoltaic plants

Governments the world over are prioritising the development and rollout of renewable energies. This is not only to reduce emissions and meet climate targets. These projects also deliver socio-economic benefits. As the energy transition accelerates, the creation of new jobs is a tangible benefit that is attracting increasing interest.

According to figures from annual reviews by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) global employment in renewable energies has been growing since 2012. The latest annual report, covering 2021, estimates that there are at least 12.7 million jobs in this sector. 

Photovoltaic technologies are generating the greatest number of job opportunities, with 4.29 million of these 12.7 million jobs being related to photovoltaics, followed by bioenergy and hydroelectricity.

Evolución de la empleabilidad global en energías renovables dividido por tecnología, 2012-2021.
Evolution of global employability in renewable energies divided by technology, 2012-2021.

Evolution of global employability in renewable energies divided by technology, 2012-2021.



Million jobs: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12.

Years: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.



Blue: Photovoltaic

Green: Bioenergy

Light blue: Hydropower

Orange: Wind energy

Pink: Solar heating/cooling

Dark green: Other

In 2021, there were 89,644 workers linked to the photovoltaic sector in Spain, according to the Annual Report from the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF). This industry also generated more than 3.5 million euros in exports, 23% more than in 2020, with photovoltaics making a direct contribution of almost 5 million euros to Spain's GDP.

These figures demonstrate that photovoltaic plants are an income-generating activity. This is particularly true in Spain due to the Tax on Constructions, Facilities and Works (ICIO), the Tax on Economic Activities (IAE), and the Tax on Real Estate with Special Characteristics (IBICES). Construction of one MW of solar-energy capacity generates around 76,000 euros over the useful life of the plant in the area where it is located.


Agrivoltaic projects

Agrivoltaics may seem like something new, but it was conceived by Adolf Goetzberger and Armin Zastrow in 1981, although it did not really start to take off until the last decade.

Endesa was a pioneer in applying this concept in Spain, in our plants in Valdecaballeros and Augusto in Extremadura, Totana in Murcia and Las Corchas in Andalusia.

We select specific activities for each of these agrivoltaic projects, assessing factors such as the ecosystem, land use and type, the availability of resources and climate conditions, in order to assess their agronomic viability and implement projects focused on the recovery, promotion and improvement of local ecosystems. 

Beekeeper working at Totana solar plant, in Seville.
Beekeeper working at Totana solar plant, in Seville.

These projects were subsequently joined by the Los Naranjos and Las Corchas plants in Carmona, Seville. These new plants added more than 250,000 photovoltaic panels and are hosting much-needed projects that create shared value to continue fostering employment and sustainability in local communities. One of the most widely recognised of these is our solar apiary. 

The latest project we are starting up is being developed in Andorra. This involves the hybridisation of solar and wind sources, energy storage and the development of green hydrogen projects to decarbonise the industries in the area. This will be a 'social crafts' project, involving a multitude of business and associative-cultural initiatives. 

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