Agricultural PV, known as Agrivoltaics, is a trend in the energy industry that describes the merger of farming and energy generation using photovoltaic installations. With skyrocketing prices for electricity and fossil energy carriers, the climate protection debate and the emphasis on sustainability fuel the demand for photovoltaic installations by agricultural operations.
Becoming involved in the energy industry can offer attractive options to agricultural operations in Germany, France, and other European countries. However, becoming a producer of renewable energy requires financial, technical, and administrative know-how.
Until July 2022, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) provided a levy for producers of solar power, the so-called “EEG Levy,” which applied to all photovoltaic installations except installations for self-consumption whose output was below 30 kilowatts (kW). In 2022, the levy was 3.72 Euro cents per kilowatt hour (€ct/kWh). Any installations for self-consumption with an output above this level were subject to a 40 percent levy.
As a result, many farmers only installed PV systems below 30 kW, even though their electricity consumption for the ventilation of stables, milk cooling, milking robots, water purification systems, and electric vehicles exceeded this volume. Now that the EEG levy has been removed, it is worth investing in photovoltaics or expanding existing systems and storage devices.
Without the EEG levy, switching larger photovoltaic installations to self-consumption is also becoming more attractive. For example, it can make sense for farmers to use excess solar power for electrical heating (power-to-heat). While most farmers still use PV on roof surfaces, there is a growing trend toward using agricultural land to produce food and solar power simultaneously. One way of doing this is with free-standing solar installations in fields and meadows. These installations are equipped with trackers that follow the sun, which increases the yield compared with conventional, fixed modules by around 20 percent. Additionally, solar panels can be moved out of the way of any working agricultural machinery in the field.
Another option is elevated photovoltaics, where the modules partially cover crops. This technology is interesting for growing fruit, berries, wine or herbs, and plants that grow better in partial shade. Several pilot projects are using semi-transparent PV modules. These “solar roofs” have the added benefit of doing away with conventional protection equipment such as hail netting and polytunnels and protecting the crops from drying out.
The free webinar Agricultural PV in Germany and France: Potentials and Challenges will be on March 14, 2023, from 11 pm – noon. The webinar will be hosted by Catherine Rollet, a speaker at the French-German Office for Energy Transition (DFBEW). “The speedy deployment of photovoltaics in Germany and France is essential to achieve the set targets for the expansion of renewable energies,” explains Rollet. “Over the coming years, solar energy will play an important role in agriculture. Agricultural PV not only contributes to making the energy transition happen – it also has benefits for agriculture and for farmers.”
Image provided by enelgreenpower.com