Agrivoltaics for rabbit farming

U.S. scientists have developed a new way to combine PV generation and rabbit farming. They claim their new approach to agrivoltaics produces lower emissions and uses less energy than non-integrated methods.

August 9, 2021

Michigan Technological University scientists have conducted a life-cycle assessment for a new way to integrate rabbit farming and PV generation. They have developed a new agrivoltaic concept that purportedly results in a 69.3​% reduction in CO2 emissions and an 82.9​% reduction in fossil fuel consumption, compared to non-integrated production.

The academics analyzed and compared three different configurations: an agrivoltaic project based on pasture-fed rabbits, solar PV generation combined with conventional rabbit farming, and a conventional electricity generation business combined with rabbit farming.

“Each system has been designed to achieve 1.57 ​MW energy generation, with potential rabbit meat production constrained to the productive capacity of 2 ​hectares (5 acres) of pasture,” they explained. “All scenarios are designed to achieve the same multiple-output functional unit of 412,596 ​MWh (1.57 ​MW installed peak power) and 7,200 rabbits (approximately 19,440 ​kg of rabbit meat) as allowed by the capacity of the baseline scenario over its lifetime of 30 years.”

Under the terms of their proposal, the agrivoltaic system would be situated at an unspecified location in Texas, and would be divided into five 314 ​kW units. It would require the use of internal fencing for the rabbits.

“All relevant balance of system components are included, as well as electric installation and fencing,” the scientists said. “Unlike a conventional solar array, an agrivoltaic system designed to host pasture-fed rabbits requires additional internal fencing to prevent escape.”

They compared three system with fossil energy demand and cumulative energy demand methods. The latter calculates energy consumption in megajoules (MJ) for every stage of the life cycle under study, including both direct and indirect uses of energy. Fossil energy demand is used to quantify the emissions and energy usage associated with each modeled scenario.

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Compared to the non-integrated production of solar PV electricity and rabbit meat, the proposed agrivoltaic approach would produce the least amount of CO2, at 3,880,000 ​kg. It would also require the least amount of fossil energy, at 46,000,000 ​MJ. The second project proposal would produce 12,667,000 kg of emissions and require 269,234,000 MJ of energy, while the third system would produce 264,771,000 kg of emissions and use 3,793,064,000 MJ.

The researchers said that the pasture-fed rabbits in the first scenario would depend on an external feeding system.

“The findings of this (life-cycle assessment) further validate the viability of combined solar energy and agriculture production techniques and provide empirical support for increased agrivoltaic system deployment as a pathway to sustainable development,” the researchers concluded.

They presented their findings in “Life cycle assessment of pasture-based agrivoltaic systems: Emissions and energy use of integrated rabbit production,” which was recently published in Cleaner and Responsible Consumption.

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