Ever notice that many of your garden plants grow better in the shade than in the direct sun? It’s true, they often do — especially in hot places like the desert of Arizona. Researchers at the University of Arizona have noticed it, too, and they’re busy developing the technology for “agrivoltaics” (derived from the words “agriculture” and “photovoltaics”). The idea is to grow food in the shade of solar panels.

Not only does this simple concept increase crop yield while using less water, but it also improves solar panel efficiency. It sounds like magic, but it’s ecology!

Agrivoltaics is now being tested throughout the region, including at Biosphere2 and at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, where it’s also being used as an educational tool for children.