Applying a solar model to LiDAR images of an agrivoltaic pear orchard

ISHS Secretariat
Applying a solar model to LiDAR images of an agrivoltaic pear orchard

Agrivoltaics is the practice of growing crops underneath solar panels. Using photovoltaic arrays above tree canopies has several potential benefits such as limiting transpiration and water use, and protecting trees and fruit from damage (extreme heat, sunlight, hail). Nevertheless, above-canopy photovoltaic arrays reduce light availability. This study aimed to measure the light availability and crop load distribution under two different west-facing solar panel configurations – 45 degree (45W) and near horizontal 5 degree (5W) – and compared it to a control (no photovoltaic arrays). A solar model was applied to LiDAR images obtained with a manual laser imaging scanner in a ‘ANP-0118’ pear orchard. The output of the scan was elaborated with 3D processing software and a high-definition 3D reconstruction of the experimental orchard obtained. An algorithm was then applied to determine the canopy radiation interception to recreate light distribution throughout the canopy. The point cloud with the illuminance scalar field was portioned into three different canopy level layers (high, medium, and low) and processed with MATLAB to extract the average values of fraction of light intercepted (%). The number of fruit on the trees was obtained by filtering the points of the selected cloud using their associated scalar value and RGB properties. The lowest light availability was recorded in the 5W. The 5W treatment had the lowest number of fruit (35.6% less than the control) whereas the 45W treatment had a similar crop load to the control. Using LiDAR technology to study the effects of photovoltaic cells on canopy solar radiation interception, distribution and fruit number is a viable option. The research was supported by the AgrHySMo laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the University of Pisa, Italy, and by the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan of the Victorian Government (Australia).

Lorenzo Bonzi won the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best poster presentation at the II International Symposium on Precision Management of Orchards and Vineyards in Australia in December 2023.

Lorenzo Bonzi, Universita di Pisa, via del Borghetto 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy, e-mail:

The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae

agrivoltaic pear orchard
Young Minds Award Winners