Agrivoltaics and landscape integration
"Agrivoltaics" is the simultaneous use of land for agricultural and photovoltaic usage but policies to promote it are lacking.
"Agrivoltaics" refers to the simultaneous use of land for agricultural and photovoltaic usage. In short, crops and electric power can be harvested on the same plot of land. Agrivoltaic systems can be roughly classified based on their module orientation: chiefly “horizontal” systems with high ground clearance and chiefly vertical systems. Both types might include bifacial modules, but bifocality is necessary in the vertical variants. Partially transparent modules are also highly relevant here to mitigate crop loss effects due to shading. Agrivoltaic systems can be realised with both fixed or solar tracking capabilities. Such tracking systems offer more flexibility in the light management for both agriculture and power generation, displaying a dual-yield control synergy unique to the agrivoltaic context. In com- parison to other markets, European progress is significant- ly slower with relationship to its expansion potential. One reason could be the lack of concrete EU policy standards. Some potential to alleviate these issues could be found in the renewal of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), whereby the goal is set to reduce greenhouse gas emis- sions in the agricultural sector by 40 % until 2030. The use of agrivoltaics could strongly support these goals, but ex- clusion of land with agrivoltaics from CAP subsidies, may render the business case more difficult.
Targets, Type of Activity and TRL
Dependent on the targeted agricultural context, agrivol- taics installations find themselves between TRL 3 and 8. To push this range more toward the higher end of the TRL range, there is a workstream focusing on the goal of de- fining legal rights issues for agrivoltaics in Europe. Howev- er, France has set a good example regarding rights issues. Along with Japan and USA (Massachusetts), France has introduced one of the few agrivoltaics targeting policies enacting an innovative tender scheme in 2017. In Ger- many agrivoltaics will be part of the innovation tenders though it is not yet sure what that concretely means for innovation. To ease this situation in Germany, an industrial and research consortium developed a pre-norm for agri- voltaics that should ease the way towards a reasonable international and/or European policy framework regard- ing agrivoltaics. Despite not having a clearly defined legal framework for construction, agrivoltaics is being followed by many different closely collaborating research institutes, operating with each other to conceive and plan projects. Semi-transparent and bifacial module types show great promise in tuning the light conditions for plant needs and have become a key focus in these projects due to their stronger economic case in such a mixed context. The strong independent networking of research, industry, and associ- ations would also suggest the will to establish national or international networks. Moreover, the economic attention for agrivoltaics and the number of installed agrivoltaic sys- tems are increasing yearly.
Despite existing agrivoltaic systems showing promising re- sults and the industry showing more and more interest in the technology, many regions lack policies to expand agri- voltaics. Detailed life cycle analyses will be a critical point in understanding the future of agrivoltaics. Using the exist- ing systems installed so far in Europe, one should not miss the chance to implement a second generation of agrivol- taics adapted in different ways to many regions and plant species in the world not only to gather new information, but also to make a big step in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The main vision for a Europe-wide agrivol- taic research roadmap is to identify the most synergetic plant-photovoltaic techno-agricultural layouts by 2025, for further evaluation by 2027 and implementation in util- ity-scale power plants by 2030, with the forementioned dual yield quantifications as KPIs in guiding this process.
With the growth of agrivoltaic construction projects, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure the presence of pos- itive synergies in installations and also to research larger, industrial scales comparing the systems to reference plots close by to evaluate the plant yield. The evaluation of these synergies naturally leads to two general key performance indicators resultant from the combined agricultural and photovoltaic system: plant yield and photovoltaic yield. A standardized methodology to evaluate this dual purpose would be beneficial.
KPIs that can be utilised for capturing progress in the above identified R&I fields are:
|Plant Yield (economic value not
only defined by weight, but also
Study and identify the most applicable use cases (crops)
Integrate rainwater collection by agrivoltaic installations
|Photovoltaic Yield (impacted fac-
tors such as varying network feed-
in tariffs and self-consumption)
Understand visual impacts of agrivoltaic installations and