Planet Care

309: Shaded farming aka Agrophotovoltaics


The expansion of renewable energies aims at meeting the global energy demand while replacing fossil fuels. However, it requires large areas of land. At the same time, food security is threatened by the impacts of climate change and a growing world population. Some highly urbanised countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, lack the necessary space to install large solar power plants.


In 1981 Adolf Goetzberger, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, proposed the idea of installing solar modules on agricultural land or in the hot and dry regions of the world. He predicted that the consequent shading would make the hard soil bloom.
In 2016 Fraunhofer built a test installation at in Heggelbach near Lake Constance which during the next three years proved the concept: They founded that, given the impacts of climate change and conditions in arid climates, potential benefits are likely for crop production through additional shading and observed improvements of water productivity. In addition, APV enhances the economic value of farming and can contribute to decentralized, off-grid electrification in developing and rural areas, thus further improving agricultural productivity.
ENGIE BENELUX has taken up the challenge and is implementing a large-scale project of this type in the Netherlands that aims is to install a 45-megawatt solar farm combined with a crop-growing activity by 2021. It also envisages the development of an APV project in Chile’s Arica Province. Ombrea has installed an AI-based mobile shade system on a vineyard in Rians, France, and the first harvest was a conclusive success.

Endesa, Spain’s largest utility has added bee hives to two AGV sites in Carmona, south-west Spain. By establishing at the 50 Mw Las Corchas and Los Naranjos solar plants, the additional bee pollination will increase productivity even further. The underground cable network spanning 4.5 km may also act as electroculture.

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