GroenLeven, a Dutch renewable energy company, has begun constructing the largest agricultural photovoltaic (Agri-PV) project above soft fruit in Europe. The project will be carried out at the farms of Maarten van Hoof in Olland, in the Meierijstad municipality. Upon completion, the project will comprise 24,206 solar panels installed above raspberry fields, where blackberries, currants, and asparagus are also grown. The installation is set to generate sufficient green electricity for an estimated 2,810 households.
Agri-PV represents a multifunctional land usage, with fruit cultivated in the same space where solar energy is harnessed. The sturdy solar panel installation protects the crops from weather conditions, replacing the conventional plastic foil typically used, making it a more sustainable solution. Moreover, it maintains a stable climate beneficial for the growth of the fruits. GroenLeven has previously executed several Agri-PV projects across the Netherlands, collectively contributing nearly 15 megawatts.
In 2020, a pilot project was initiated where solar panels were installed above some of Van Hoof’s raspberry and blackberry crops. After witnessing successful results, Van Hoof decided to outfit his entire raspberry crop with solar panels.
Van Hoof explains, “Raspberries are susceptible to damage from excessive rainfall leading to mold. The solar panels are sturdier and not prone to damage, even during storms. Unlike foil, the panels do not make a rattling noise during high winds, don’t reflect the sunlight, and are more labor-friendly as they don’t require frequent replacements.”
GroenLeven has successfully executed several Agri-PV projects, including those over raspberries, berries, and strawberries. Bram Wasser, the Agri-PV project manager at GroenLeven, emphasized that every type of fruit requires a different approach with Agri-PV. Collaboratively with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), the team has examined the optimal application of Agri-PV for each known Dutch fruit variety. The studies considered aspects such as the panels’ light transmission (PAR), the climate under the panels, temperature, reduction of pesticides, fruit production, and the Brix value.
Peter Paul Weeda, GroenLeven’s CEO, acknowledges the Netherlands’ spatial challenges, particularly with the energy transition and housing shortage. GroenLeven has, therefore, specialized in the multifunctional use of space with solar panels, placing them on large solar roofs, solar carports, airports, and over half a million floating on sand extraction lakes. However, he acknowledges that implementing Agri-PV in the Netherlands can be challenging without additional government support due to its higher costs compared to standard solar parks. The company is currently in discussions with various governments to seek a solution to this issue.
Van Hoof expressed satisfaction with his Agri-PV installation and revealed that other growers also consider this type of panel. He proudly declared, “With this project, I can claim to grow the most sustainable raspberries and blackberries in the Netherlands!”
Photo by Paul Shore on Unsplash
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