- A study led by OIEH says Croatia can install up to 900 MW solar capacity through agrivoltaics using 1% of suitable land
- It can go up to 4.7 GW if the available land use is increased to 5%, according to the EBRD funded study
- Authors see agrivoltaics as working well for some cultivations, and do not recommend large-scale installations for vegetables and cereals
- They count challenges as grid connection, soil monitoring and absence of regulatory framework
Croatia can install 900 MW new solar PV capacity, up to 5 times more than 182 MW already operational in the country if it uses only 1% of its available agricultural land to deploy solar PV systems, says a new study by the Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia Association (OIEH or RES Croatia).
The solar PV capacity can further increase to 4.7 GW if the agricultural land for agrivoltaic installations is increased to 5% of the country’s total agricultural land.
Financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the study was prepared in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Zagreb and the Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences in Osijek and the Institute for Adriatic Crops and Karst Reclamation from Split.
Basis their research for this study, authors recommend using agrivoltaics for viticulture, fruit growing, for the cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants, grasslands and fish farming.
“More specifically, grapevine, olive, American blueberry, haskap, raspberry, Siberian kiwi, apricot, cherry and sour cherry would be the most suitable agricultural crops for agrosolar applications,” reads the study.
The researchers specifically point at aromatic grape varieties that they believe will respond better to lower temperatures and UV radiation, to help maintain their aromas.
For apples, pears, blueberries, kiwi, peaches, nectarines, quinces and strawberries, the use of agrosolar is recommended depending on the variety. Yellow and green apple varieties, such as Golden Delicious or Granny Smith, can benefit from solar panels placed above the orchard to prevent them from turning red.
However, they argue against its large-scale use for vegetables, cereals, industrial and fodder plants. Instead, small research-based projects can be installed to further learn about the efficacy of solar installations for such land.
Authors of the study push for regulation for agrivoltaic projects so as to steer it towards growth in a systemic and comprehensive manner.
A significant challenge will be to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page with regard to such an installation in the field, including landowners, farmers, and policy makers for a smooth and fast roll-out.
Future development of agrivoltaics or agrosolar plants will depend on various factors such as geographical and biological limitations, grid connection capacity, land availability.
Nonetheless, Prof. Marko Karoglan from the Faculty of Agriculture at Zagreb stressed that food production must come first and then energy production.
“Agrosolar projects should be seen as an agrotechnical measure of partial shading of crops growing on permanent plantations. But it will be necessary to ensure that all measures are taken to prevent negative impacts on the soil and plants,” added Karoglan.
Authors also suggest that such installations should be accompanied by a monitoring system to measure the soil and microclimatic conditions under the solar panels, followed by detailed monitoring within 5 years after the deployment.
Titled Study on the potential of solar energy use in the agricultural and freshwater aquaculture sectors in Croatia in Croatian language, the study can be downloaded from RES Croatia’s website for free.
Agrivoltaics, along with other advanced solar module applications as BIPV, floating solar among others, will be discussed at length during TaiyangNews Virtual Conference on Advanced Module Applications on September 26, 2023. Registrations to the event are free and can be done here.