BayWa r.e., along with its Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven, has started the construction of a solar power plant above a raspberry orchard. The German company says it is Europe’s biggest renewable energy project using photovoltaic modules above fruits, at a peak capacity of 8.7 MW.
Agrosolar is the use of land for both agriculture and solar power generation. In a narrower sense, the concept implies placing photovoltaic panels high above the ground, on supports, to allow cattle grazing or growing fruits, vegetables, aromatic or fodder plants. Electricity production costs are higher that way than for ground-mounted PV plants, so energy companies and food producers are looking for optimal solutions.
In the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands, farmer Maarten van Hoof has arranged the installation of 24,206 above-ground solar panels. They will protect his raspberries from bad weather, while at the same time producing enough energy for 2,810 households.
Hoof opted for the upgrade after a successful pilot project that BayWa r.e. conducted. Namely, since 2020, it has researched the effects of installing solar panels above the plantations of different types of fruit in four places. BayWa r.e. is part of the German BayWa group.
The conditions for raspberry development are more stable under solar panels
The pilot study showed the climate under the panels is more stable than under traditional plastic arches. The solar energy devices created a more favorable lower temperature and better protected the crops from the weather. BayWa r.e. designed a semi-transparent module allowing sufficient sunlight for the plants to pass through while at the same time protecting the crop from hail, heavy rain, and direct sunlight.
Agrosolar solves the problem of lack of space
The project is expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2024, according to the announcement. Multipurpose land use has numerous advantages, since solar power is usually criticized for occupying large areas. PV modules protect crops and provide a more resilient growing environment, while also cutting down on single-use plastic coverings and contributing to meeting the demand for renewable energy.
The company added its endeavor in the Meierijstad municipality was possible thanks to government subsidies and investment from the farmer himself.
Legislation and subsidies are needed for agrosolar development
“For Agri-PV to gain traction in Europe and realise real positive change, we need legislation and subsidies supporting us. The effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent every day, and we can’t afford to miss this great opportunity for the energy and farming transition.” said Benedikt Ortmann, BayWa r.e.’s Global Director of Solar Projects.