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Sustainable Agriculture for a Clean Energy Future

10. May 2022

What is Agri PV?

The concept of agricultural photovoltaics is simply exploiting the possibility of using managed land twice – for arable cultivation or grassland management AND "electricity farming" – i.e. to generate electricity from the field. All of this can be realized without any significant loss of space. Underneath can be tended to normally, including mowed and fertilized. The risk of disruption to the agricultural activity is extremely low.

What is the benefit?

Because agricultural land can be used in this way to generate solar power, no additional space is required and the function of the land can be doubled. Municipalities, energy communities and power farmers are already doubling the proceeds from existing managed fields and grassland areas.

How can IDEEMATEC help?

The IDEEMATEC Horizon L:TEC tracker® forms the basis of the IDEEMATEC Agri PV solution, with adjustments made to cater for the requirements of the land and for the type of agriculture. Our two-in-portrait system is proven in the field, and is the ideal starting point for an Agri PV project.

What are the requirements?

DIN SPEC 91434 outlines the requirements for the main agricultural use in the field of Agricultural Photovoltaics. In doing so, it sets requirements for the planning, operation, documentation and operational monitoring, as well as measurement indicators for the test procedure for the quality assurance of Agri PV systems. Obligations include items such as light intensity and light distribution below the Agri-PV system, which are also adapted to the needs of the respective crop.

IDEEMATEC's Agri PV solution sets the standard for these prerequisites and fully aligns with all necessary specifications. We can guide you in this process and discuss your project further.

Is there any research happening in this space?

Work is underway through an IDEEMATEC and EWS Consulting cooperation on a 5.5 hectare research facility, Sonnenfeld Bruck an der Leitha, in Austria. This state-of-the-art Agri PV research facility is due to be completed in September.

The site is divided into eight research zones, each with their own unique configuration in terms of row spacing, module type and orientation. Over the next 3 years, research will be carried out with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences into which plant cultures and forms of cultivation are best suited to arable land and grassland with simultaneous PV power generation. Both electricity and agricultural yields will be investigated to determine the best solutions for a sustainable approach to agriculture that optimizes the use of land through doubling up on functionality.

How does the research work?

To fully investigate the effects on electricity yields and agricultural yields, the rows of modular tables are installed with different center distances: 8, 11 and 14 m center distances (research zones 2-4).

To monitor the effects on biodiversity, and so the effects on agricultural yields can be examined accordingly, two reference areas are also considered: A fallow area (research zone 7) and an area that is farmed but on which no module tables are set up (research zone 6).

In order to compare the electricity yields of the mobile module tables with the electricity yields of permanently installed systems, panels with a rigid south orientation (research zone 5) as well as rigid east-west double tables (research zone 8) and a rigid south-east orientation (research zone 1) will be installed.

Furthermore, excess and reduced yields of bifacial and mono-facial modules are examined for several flower strip compositions and crops.

How far can the trackers rotate?

The system offers the possibility of adjusting the module tables accordingly, so that management between the rows of modules is possible. Farmers can use a smartphone app to switch the modules to what is known as “grassland” harvesting mode. In this mode, the modules stand horizontally. Damage to the modules, e.g. from falling rocks, is therefore minimized.

Crucial to this concept is the optimal and flexible choice of row spacing between the rows of modular tables in order to provide sufficient space for agricultural machinery. These distances can be adjusted to management needs as early as the planning stage. The "arable farming" harvesting mode, where the module tables are opened up to 70° to each other, enables the greatest possible passage light, adapted to a wide variety of harvesting machines.

What else is measured?

The solar field and the two reference areas are equipped with various sensors and measuring instruments in order to examine the influence of various parameters such as precipitation, water availability, soil moisture, partial shading intensity, photosynthetic radiation, temperature, wind speed, etc. on agricultural management and the yields of the different crops be able.

What next?

The team at IDEEMATEC will be working closely with EWS to monitor results from this test site. We will keep you updated on the progress.

In the meantime, you can visit us at Intersolar (Hall A6, Booth 440) to see a model of this system and find out more.