The project partners of a new 258 kW agrivoltaic facility in Germany (in the picture) also aim to demonstrate the economic potential for farmers as solar energy can lead to permanently lower and predictable energy costs. (Photo Credit: Fraunhofer ISE)
- A 258 kW agrivoltaic system has been installed in Germany for an apple orchard
- Fraunhofer ISE, BayWa and partners aim to study the facility for 5 years to understand and exhibit sustainable production practices for apples
- It will enable the project partners understand the impact of solar power generation on 8 apple varieties
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A 258 kW agrivoltaic system has been installed in Germany’s Gelsdorf in Rhineland-Palatinate state, and a host of research partners plan to study it over the next 5 years to ascertain carbon neutral potential for orchards.
Funded by the State Ministry of Climate Protection, Environment, Energy and Mobility of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate (MUEEF) and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the 258 kW facility at the organic fruit farm Bio-Obsthof Nachtwey is part of a new project called Agri-PV Obstbau (APV Obstbau). Through this project, the German government wants to increase climate resilience in orcharding and ensure sustainable apple production, while generating solar power.
It was installed by the Fraunhofer Institute for the Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE), BayWa r.e. and some other research partners on 1/3rd of the plot, covering around 9,100 sq. mtr. space, and they call it the 1st system of its kind in the country.
For this agrivoltaic facility, the project partners have installed 2 different types of modules with solar cells arranged either in strips or a block pattern. It will allow project partners to study solar power generation and its impact on 8 varieties of apples.
They will be able to compare apple production at the same site under 3 different crop protection systems namely foil protection, hail protection and agri-PV with fixed light permeable PV modules, and tracked PV modules.
There are following 4 main points the researchers and industry partners aim to study with the 258 kW facility:
- To what extend can agri-PV systems can protect plans and fruit from harmful environmental influences?
- Identifying impact on plant growth and agricultural yields with the help of different PV module configurations.
- Landscape aesthetics, economic efficiency, social compatibility and crop production parameters.
- Demonstrating economic benefits for farmers with permanently lower and predictable energy costs, lower investment costs in crop protection and lower operational and waste disposal costs.
“The research project “Agri-PV Obstbau” is not only intended to demonstrate ways of reducing carbon emissions in the agriculture sector, but also aims to make significant contributions to climate protection by avoiding nondurable materials as well as pesticides and fungicides,” said Fraunhofer ISE’s Acting Group Manager Andreas Steinhüser. “We are also focused on addressing societal issues such as acceptance and social compatibility, which will play a crucial role in the expansion of APV.”
Electricity generation by the facility can be used by the farm and is already being used to power battery electric tractor at the farm and also to supply watering system here.
The NEXT Farming software system by BayWa’s parent company BayWa AG that also operates in the agriculture space will help farmers here control their entire operation.
“We have recognized that the potential synergies for Agri-PV combined with apple, pear, cherry, kiwi and other permanent crops are considerable. We would like to develop this potential permanently and enable further expansion of photovoltaics without limiting agricultural yields,” explained BayWa’s Head of Product Management Agri-PV, Stephan Schindele.
BayWa has been working on agrivoltaic projects, especially in the Netherlands where it commissioned a 1.2 MW project in March 2021 after launching a pilot with Wageningen University and Research (see BayWa Completes Agrivoltaic Facility In The Netherlands).
In February 2021, Fraunhofer ISE issued agrivoltaics guidelines for Germany, estimating its technical potential to install 1,700 GW capacity (see Fraunhofer ISE Issues Guidelines For Agrivoltaics).