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The advent of modern solar-powered electric agricultural machinery: A solution for sustainable farm operations

: Gorjian, S.; Ebadi, H.; Trommsdorff, M.; Sharon, H.; Demant, M.; Schindele, S.


Journal of cleaner production 292 (2021), Art. 126030
ISSN: 0959-6526
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISE ()

With an uprising trend in cutting agriculture’s reliance on fossil fuels because of their limited supply and associated adverse impacts on the environment, the use of infrastructures adapted with alternative energy sources would be of crucial necessity. Among all renewable sources, solar energy has the highest compatibility with agricultural activities. The emergence of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy conversion technology in agriculture diminishes the need for oil-based fuels in this sector, offering a more affordable and sustainable electricity generation technique, and causing a remarkable reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In modern farm activities, the need for electrification has been raised, leading to the creation of a great opportunity for the employment of PV technology in this sector. The current study investigates the integration of PV technology with electric farm tractors and agricultural robots by discussing research works and commercial case studies. The results indicate that two major challenges against the widespread deployment of modern solar-powered electric farm machinery are high initial costs mainly associated with PV modules and battery storage units, along with deficiencies in electricity storage technologies. Due to operating in outdoor conditions, the effect of environmental parameters on the performance of PV modules integrated with agricultural machines including surface temperature, dust accumulation, shading, and air humidity should also be considered. Further technical improvements, cost reductions, and securing government incentives can facilitate the real-world deployment of these sustainable machines. This study is expected to promote the integration of PV technology with modern electric agricultural machinery and to encourage farmers, producers, planners, and decision-makers to employ this technique in mechanized agriculture by giving them an insight into the latest advances along with major challenges.