Can Solar and Agriculture Live Together?

Oct 27, 2016 | written by:

And if it was possible to combine successfully photovoltaic panels and agriculture? In Germany, in Heggelbach, near Lake Constance, it has recently opened the first experimental facility in agrophotovoltaics. It consists of a series of solar panels placed on pylons to some meters of height that form the shed to a third of a hectare of cultivated land.

To deal with the construction of the plant has been a specialized research center, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). the original insight on the coexistence of agriculture and photovoltaics  belongs to its founder, Adolf Goetzberger.

Dating back to 1981, but never tested, the idea of Goetzberger is now implemented with bifacial panels SolarWorld, that can collect solar radiation from both sides: so it receives both the direct sunlight, and the reflected from the ground. The plant, with an output of 194 kilowatts, will meet the needs of 62 families.

Heggelbach plant is a collective work: it took the funding of the German Ministry of Research, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the support of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Hohenheim and the center for technical assessment for the Karlsruhe Technology (KIT).

Four plant species are the protagonist of the tests: wheat, clover, potatoes and celeriac. These will be grown both under the panels, and on the ground immediately adjacent without anything on. The crops in 2017 and 2018 will be compared to evaluate differences in growth: the Institute shall declare the test passed if the yield of the side with panels will be at least equal to 80% of that of the free side.

"Considering the rise of photovoltaic systems installed in the last ten years and the corresponding land use, these innovative solutions, such as agrofotovoltaics that facilitates the dual use of agricultural land, help to promote and accelerate the transformation of the global energy system". That says Eicke Weber, Director of Fraunhofer ISE.

The aim is not only to check that the mix energy-agriculture is profitable, but also to identify the plants that adapt more to the new conditions of sun exposure.

A prospect yet to be verified, but encouraging: a more rational use of land for the energy system of the future?

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