Agrivoltaics test plant
Agrivoltaics test plant: Credit: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has published a new set of guidelines on agrivoltaics, providing up-to-date information on the technology, its potential and the current state of development.

Agrivoltaics makes use of photovoltaic modules, which are mounted on a structure, to generate renewable electricity while agricultural crops grow underneath the modules. The approach increases land efficiency and could mitigate conflicts over the use of arable land in the future.

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The new guidelines provide farmers, municipalities and companies with practical advice on how to use agrivoltaics, as well as how to adapt the existing legal framework to include this new technology.

How it works

On the same piece of land, solar energy as well as food and feed crops can be harvested simultaneously.

“This reduces competition for arable land and contributes to more efficient land use,” says Max Trommsdorff, group head of Agrivoltaics at Fraunhofer ISE. “In addition, agrivoltaics offers advantages such as protection against hail, frost and drought damage, eliminating the need for protective foils and other materials. Also, a reduction in wind load and solar radiation underneath the PV modules can help to decrease water consumption in agriculture.”

For some crop types, the elevated PV mounting structure can even lead to an increase in yield, as shown by research projects such as APV-RESOLA. Besides this, solar power generation creates a stable source of additional income for farms, providing many with better resilience to crop failure.

Advantages

About four percent of Germany’s arable land area would be sufficient for Germany to meet its current electricity demand on the balance sheet. This is equivalent to ca. 500GW of installed PV capacity. Also, the costs are decidedly positive, with electricity generation costs between seven and twelve cents per kilowatt-hour, agrivoltaics is already cost-effective today.

One of the current projects being studied by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE is the APV-MaGa project, which targets the demonstration and analysis of the potential of agrivoltaics for Mali and The Gambia. It aims to proof the technical and economic viability of an integrated triple land-use system in order to contribute to a more ecological and socio-economic sustainable development within the West African context. The double land use of agrivoltaics is extended by the range of water management allowing the study of interactions between the Food-Water-Energy-Nexus.

Fraunhofer ISE was the first to comprehensively test the agrivoltaics technology in Germany and has made the guideline document available for download in both English and German.