Agrophotovoltaics is a fancy word that means it is possible to combine solar power with farming in a way that benefits both. In theory, it would be possible to meet all the world’s electrical needs with solar panels.
Researchers around the world, led by Fraunhofer ISE in Germany, are finding new ways to combine the two.
According to a press release from Germany’s Next2Sun, it is about to switch on an innovative new 4.1 MW agrophotovoltaic installation in Baden-Württemberg that uses 11,000 n-type PERT bifacial solar panels, each with a power output of 380 W.
The panels are mounted on 5,800 vertical racks that cover about 14 hectares of land.
Annual output for the facility is expected to be 4,850 MWh and the electricity produced will have a wholesale value of 6 cents per kilowatt hour.
The basic principle of the concept consists in the vertical arrangement of solar modules that can use sunlight from both the front and the rear. The two active sides face east and west.
The areas between the rows of modules can continue to be used for agriculture and the resulting flower strips provide space for the endangered insect world and many species of birds.
Solar power developer MaxSolar, in partnership with Wien Energie in Austria, is also about to start operations for its new 11.5 MW solar power plant — one of the largest in Austria — near Vienna.
Located atop a former gravel operation, it will feature 25,78o solar panels, some of which will be mounted vertically on an east-west axis.
Some 150 Jura sheep will allowed to roam the facility, acting as four legged lawn mowers during the warm weather. The project may also incorporate the cultivation of crops at some point in the future as well.
The company claims combining solar and farming will make the land 60% more productive.
The takeaway is that solar and farming do not have to compete for the same land. They can work together to make the land more productive, which will help raise incomes for struggling farmers while supporting the transition to renewable energy.
Reference- MaxSolar website, Next2Sun website & PR, Clean Technica, Fraunhofer ISE- Germany