Agrivoltaics is a method that simultaneously uses agricultural land for food production and PV power generation. The energy transformation requires a massive expansion, resulting in high demand of space. In most countries, this issue is not resolvable due to mounting ground systems, therefore fertile land is very valuable and limited.
This method solves this conflict by enabling food production and electricity generation on the same land, increasing its efficiency and the resilience of agricultural production against global warming. The dual use of land of agrivoltaic systems is able to improve the status of farmers, who can rely on an additional source of income for their households.
This technology has an efficient dual-way of using the agricultural land: pv can be expanded without expropriating valuable arable land. Targeted light management in fact, is able to increase the yields both from Photosynthesis and power generation. The promotion of rural development in regions adopting agrivoltaics is also considered a co-benefit of this technology, as agrivoltaic projects are designed to be managed decentrally by farmers and their communities, or by medium-small enterprises.
For agriculture, new added value thanks to the different farming options that arise from this integration is produced. In industrial and research projects, the Fraunhofer Research Institute is working on the further development of this technology, aiming at improving the integration of PV systems on arable land.
Intelligent Lighting Management
The simultaneous dual use of land of agrivoltaics requires different management of light and shade in a balanced way, for this reason Fraunhofer ISE has conceptualized and developed models to obtain the optimal yield for both PV and photosynthesis, by targeting the management of light. To do so, the starting point was the selection and adaptation of the existing PV modules, frames and installation parameters. By doing this, both of the targets will be reached with sufficient light throughout the days of the year.
In recent years, agrivoltaic technology has developed in all regions of the world. Government subsidy programs in Japan, China, France and the USA, allowed for a worldwide increase of agrivoltaic capacity installed from approx. 3 MWp to almost 3 GWp between 2012 and 2019. (Fraunhofer ISE, 2020)
Sun Protection in Times of Climate Change
The core elements of agrivoltaic research are the synergies between the fields of agriculture and photovoltaics. Designing targeted PV systems with specific requirement of light management, together with the work and selection of plant species is able to stabilize and improve the yield for both. The reason why is that PV can interfere in shading the crops during very dry periods, in which crop failure is most likely to occur. This method allows farmers to also reduce the consumption of water for irrigation and avoid wind erosion of crops thanks to the protection of the PV system. The need for irrigation is reduced due to partial shading and wind erosion decreases. The overall dual-system resilience is improved.
High Efficiency Proven in Pilot Project
The research group of Fraunhofer institute “APV-RESOLA” demonstrated the efficiency of agrivoltaics with a 194 kWp pilot plant in Heggelbach, Germany. The results in 2017 showed an overall efficiency of 160 percent. The performance of the agrivoltaic system in the summer of 2018 again reached more than this efficiency of land use. During this very hot summer, the shades developed by the PV module protected the crop from failure and enabled the produced a significant amount of energy. Considering the land – use of potatoes in the area, the efficiency of the system in Heggelbach reached 186% in 2018.
Sound Studies and Planning
High-yield agrivoltaic power plants have the potential to develop the best synergies to overcome the issue of land-use expropriation due to solar panels construction. The implementation and development of such systems requires a multi-disciplinary know-how from developers for their implementation.
You can download the Report of FRAUNHOFER RESEARCH INSTITUTE here. Read the findings and plans for the extensive development of this technology for Germany and several other developing countries by Fraunhofer Institute.
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