Recently, one of our project members, Basia Latawiec, helped a team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign take third place in the “Reimagine Our Future” Competition. The presentation was titled “Agrivoltaics in Southern Afar, Ethiopia.”

Thanks to Yash Khandelwal, Parshwa Patel, Muskan Jain, Rishit Jain, Mika Lew for all your hard work, and inspiring presentation.

The main points covered in the presentation included an overview of the region’s climate, its agricultural practices, and the current energy infrastructure. The presentation also outlined a plan to introduce agrivoltaics, a farming method that integrates photovoltaic panels and crops, as a sustainable and efficient solution. The key takeaways from the presentation were the potential benefits of agrivoltaics, such as increased crop yields, reduced water usage, and enhanced energy access.

The presentation begins by highlighting the key problem facing Ethiopia, which is a combination of food insecurity, lack of electricity, and civil war. It is pointed out that only 44% of the Ethiopian population has access to electricity, with the region of Afar being particularly affected due to issues with infrastructure development and high capital costs for hydro-powered electricity. Furthermore, the ongoing civil war has destroyed more than half of the transmission lines, exacerbating the problem.

The presentation proposes a solution to this problem in the form of an agrivoltaics + solar-powered hydro pump. By implementing this solution on farmlands in the Afar region, economic development can be boosted through increased energy and food security. The presentation suggests that this solution can provide a sustainable and efficient way to address the challenges of water scarcity and lack of electricity, while also promoting economic growth and stability in the region.

In conclusion, the team proposes the introduction of a self-sufficient electricity generating system using agrivoltaics as a sustainable and efficient solution to the challenges of water scarcity and lack of electricity in the Afar region. The presentation highlights that relying on the national grid is quite expensive and that introducing an agrivoltaic system can reduce reliance on the grid.

The presentation also points out that the Afar region is facing unprecedented droughts caused by global warming, which is affecting food and water security. By putting shade over crops and protecting them from UV damage and drought, the agrivoltaic system can create a more favorable growing environment and curb some of those extreme conditions.

Additionally, the team highlights that the proposed solution can rejuvenate cabbage cultivation in the region, which has been slowly dying due to extreme climate conditions. It cited promising results from a similar project in Kenya, where yields increased by around 16%.

The presentation also notes that increased crop production and electricity generation through the proposed solution can inspire neighboring regions to employ this system, leading to a wider expansion of the system. Lastly, the presentation highlights the economic gain from the system, estimating a potential revenue increase of up to $5,000 per acre and a total profit generated of more than $6.4 million for farmers owning more than 10 acres of land.

You can access the full presentation HERE.