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University of Minnesota Extension

Raising livestock and crops under solar panels

What are agrivoltaics?

Solar panel system providing shade to grazing cattle

Agrivoltaics refer to growing crops, building pollinator habitats or raising livestock underneath solar panels. It allows for renewable energy systems and agriculture to occur on the same piece of land.

What are the benefits?

Improve land use

Agrivoltaic systems can improve land use by allowing you to produce more energy and crops or livestock from a single piece of land than you would on separate land. Thus, agriculture and solar energy systems may benefit each other when they occur at the same site.

For example, certain cool-season crops may increase in yield when shaded by solar panels. Soil shaded by the panels may also retain more moisture. At the same time, the plants growing underneath the panels can help keep the panels cool and produce energy more efficiently.

Increase in farm income

Agrivoltaics can increase your income in several ways. For example, installing solar panels on your farmland to produce your own energy can decrease your farm’s energy expenses. You could also earn income by selling solar energy to an electric cooperative.

If you graze sheep or cattle and need more land, you could enter into a grazing contract with the owner of a solar energy site. Grazing under solar panels can increase your pasture acres without buying or renting additional land or fencing infrastructure. At the same time, the owner of the solar site may benefit from a decrease in costs related to land care.

Improve livestock health

Solar panels installed in a pasture or near livestock facilities can provide necessary shade for livestock during summer months and help decrease body temperatures in the afternoons.

Researchers at the West Central Research and Outreach Center installed solar panels in dairy cow pastures. They studied how shade from the panels affected the productivity, health and behavior of the cows.


Authors: Sabrina Florentino, Extension educator, alternative livestock production systems, Bradley Heins, Extension organic dairy specialist, and Kirsten Sharpe Moser, researcher, West Central Research and Outreach Center

Reviewed in 2024

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