Students from around the world are encouraged to participate in the AgriVoltaics Student Design Competition as part of the 5th Agrivoltaic World Conference hosted in Denver, Colorado, June 11th-13th. Winning students will have the opportunity to present their work to an international audience, while all teams will have the ability to showcase their projects in poster format at the Conference Design Competition Showcase.
Submissions will be judged by a panel of international experts. University Student Awards will be given to the top project from each location: Denver County, Mesa County, and Weld County in Colorado, USA.
Agrivoltaics is the combination of agriculture and solar photovoltaic technologies on the same land in novel configurations. These systems actively prioritize food production (crops and/or livestock), ecosystem services, farm viability, local community values, and land use efficiency alongside energy generation to increase the sustainability and shared value of solar development. Lessons learned from early research and development of agrivoltaics underscores how inclusive and holistic system design is a key component of success, as design impacts farm operation compatibility, crop suitability, power production, site environmental conditions, and social acceptance.
The AgriVoltaics 2024 Student Design Competition aims to inspire students to think creatively and holistically about energy integration across rural and urban landscapes. The purpose of this competition is to provide students an opportunity to develop innovate agrivoltaic design concepts that address community sustainability challenges across the food-energy-water nexus. To that end, we are orienting the evaluation of projects around the 5 C’s of Agrivoltaic Success – Climate, Configuration, Crops and Cultivation, Compatibility, Collaboration – to ensure a full range of technical, social, and ecological factors are integrated into agrivoltaic projects . The final aim of this competition is to design a novel compelling agrivoltaic solution for common use cases globally, building off real sites based in Colorado, USA.
Students are encouraged to leverage findings from recent scientific research in a range of fields, including but not limited to agricultural sciences, ecology, sociology, human behavior, and urban design theory. Student participants have the opportunity to apply established research theories in their designs, which should be grounded in evidence-based approaches while also pushing the boundaries of what is possible in agrivoltaic systems. This includes providing measurable data and best practices to demonstrate tangible environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Innovative Integration: Proposals should create designs that thoughtfully integrate PV facilities into agricultural landscapes while co-optimizing agricultural productivity, energy generation, and engagement.
Food Energy Water Nexus: Proposals should address all aspects of the food energy water nexus, particularly in optimizing agricultural and energy outputs while minimizing the impacts of freshwater usage in the context of Colorado’s climate.
Scalability and Adaptability: Relative to each location’s scale, designs should be adaptable to different geographies with similar climatic conditions.
Social Dimensions and Community Engagement: Proposals should include novel approaches to engage local communities and stakeholders in the context of food and energy generation on the same land area, including long-term food security considerations.
Dr. Stefano Amaducci // Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Department of Sustainable Crop Production, Italy
Dr. Stephan Schindele // Head of Product Management Agri-PV at BayWa r.e., Germany
Dr. Jody Beck // University of Colorado Denver, College of Architecture and Planning, Landscape Architecture Department, USA
Jane Choi // Colorado State University, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, USA
Makoto Tajima // Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), Japan
Julia Park // Namaste Solar, O&M Portfolio Manager, USA
Jordan Macknick // NREL, Lead Energy-Water-Land Analyst, USA
Diane Lipovsky // SUPERBLOOM, Principal & Co-Founder, USA
As agrivoltaic solutions can look different based on different agricultural contexts, this competition is considering three distinct agricultural applications that are representative of conditions for which novel agrivoltaic solutions are needed across the globe. This includes large-scale cattle grazing and commodity crop farming; fruit production, orchards, and viticulture; and urban systems that could include smaller farms and/or rooftop systems. To provide a consistent set of boundary conditions related to climate and scale, specific locations within the state of Colorado have been selected as host sites for the competition categories.
Project teams must select one location from the table below, then find a plot of land that fits within the Max Land Area. Student groups will then design an agrivoltaic site that matches the agricultural application for their scale and location.
Max Land Area
Weld County, CO, USA
Cattle Grazing / Commodity Crop Farming
Mesa County, CO, USA
Fruit Production / Orchard / Viticulture
Denver County, CO, USA
Urban Farm / Rooftop Farm / Small Farm
Mesa County // Western Slope
Mesa County is located within Colorado’s Western Slope, a region of the state that lies west of the continental divide. The agricultural sector in Mesa County is facing modern challenges, particularly influenced by the region's unique climate and water resources. The Western Slope's agriculture heavily relies on irrigation from rivers and streams, with over 90% of water diversions in the area managed for crops like fruits, vegetables, hay, and alfalfa. This variety is supported by the Colorado River, which provides essential irrigation water. However, the region faces significant challenges due to declining river flows and overconsumption downstream on the Colorado River Basin. This highlights the importance of water resource management in the region, as agriculture is the largest user of water from the Colorado River and its tributaries.
Climate change poses another challenge, particularly for fruit orchards. The orchards in this area, situated at high altitudes, require special care and are subject to unpredictable and volatile weather conditions, including the likelihood of unseasonal frost. Despite the challenges, the unique climate of the Western Slope contributes to the distinct flavor and quality of the fruit produced in the region, Overall, the agriculture sector in Mesa County is adapting to changing environmental conditions and water resource challenges, while continuing to produce high-quality agricultural products.
Denver County // Front Range Urban Corridor
Denver is situated on the western edge of the High Plains, adjacent to the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains' Front Range. Known as the "Mile High City," Denver's official elevation is precisely one mile above sea level (5280 feet or 1609.3 meters). The greater Denver Metropolitan Area, encompassing 10 counties, had a 2020 census population of 2,963,821, ranking as the 19th most populous in the United States. Sitting at the epicenter of the Denver Metro Area is Denver County. Denver County’s population has grown from ~551,000 in 2004, to ~713,000 in 2022 - an increase of nearly 30% over that time span. It is the most populous city in a 900 km (560 Mile) radius and holds the position of the second-most populous city in the Mountain West region.
As the Denver Metropolitan area continues to grow in population, the associated stresses of urbanization grow with it. Developing over natural habitats, open space, and agricultural lands; inflated land values, food insecurities, and a strain on the limited water supply have all become a reality in Denver County. In an effort to combat the loss of open space, in 2018, Denver passed the Green Building Ordinance to encourage building developers to consider green spaces within the city by enhancing water and stormwater management, and promoting the utilization of solar energy sources. Overall, Denver is adapting to the influx of population as its happening - new solutions that maximize land use will be necessary to maintain sustainable growth in the Mile High City.
Weld County // Eastern Plains
Weld County, Colorado has firmly established itself as a leading agricultural region both within the state and across the United States. It's recognized as the leading (economic) agricultural producing county east of the Rocky Mountains and ranks within the top 10 in the United States. The county's agricultural landscape is vast, covering over one million hectares (2.5 million acres), with about 75% of this area dedicated to farming and livestock raising. This includes more than 3,000 farms actively contributing to the county's agricultural output.
Weld County is particularly known for being Colorado's leading producer of beef cattle, grain, sugar beets, and dairy. The dairy industry, in particular, has seen significant growth, with the number of milk cows doubling between 2010 and 2021. This growth in the dairy sector has also brought challenges, especially in terms of water usage which is a critical resource in the region's semi-arid environment.
Key Criteria to Consider
Climate, Soil, and Environment
-General site analysis of existing conditions
-Water access and management
-Suitability based on soil and climate conditions
-Siting considerations, proximity to infrastructure
Configuration, Solar Technologies, and Design
-PV system capacity and generation
-PV technology (modules and racking)
-PV design (including panel height and groundcover ratio)
-Project layout within the land area
Cultivation Methods, Crop Selection, and Management Approaches
-Vegetation / Crop selection suitability based on Climate and Configuration
-Harvesting and site management
-Planting / vegetation plans
-Markets and distribution in context of local food systems
Compatibility and Flexibility
-Farm operation & equipment compatibility
-Adaptability of system design to other agricultural activities
-Infrastructure (PV and agricultural) requirements
Collaboration and Partnerships
-Consideration of potential social impacts of project design
-Community and stakeholder engagement opportunities
-Identification of relevant types of partners and agreements across different sectors
Project Novelty and Impact
-Novelty and uniqueness of approach
-Scalability of project design across geographies
-Other relevant factors important to adoption of agrivoltaic systems
All submissions must be submitted through the HeroX Platform. Student teams must create a HeroX account and then "Solve the Challenge" by completing all sections of the Submission Form.
To be eligible for consideration, all submissions must satisfy the following guidelines:
1. Project Narrative (1,500 words maximum):
2. Site Design (PDF 8 pages (max), 11"x17", or, A3 size paper)
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