- How can farmers benefit from BayWa r.e.’s Agri-PV systems?
Our Agri-PV systems make the best possible use of the synergy between crop production, according to the agricultural utilisation plan involved, and the installation of solar panels. This is true especially of the important techno-ecological effects concerning the protection of crops from hail and excess sunlight, and from excess evaporation of water from the plants and soil.
- What are the advantages of a partnership with BayWa r.e.?
The BayWa Group combines agriculture and energy in a unique way. More than 30 years of experience in the field of renewable energy have given us comprehensive expertise in this sector, so we view ourselves as both forerunners and friends of the green energy revolution. Our capacity for innovation, as demonstrated by our floating photovoltaic systems, has already made us a pioneer in the creation of dual land-use solutions. Now, we’re adding to this successful track record with Agri-PV. We are a full-service provider with a solid financial foundation, and we consistently adhere to the highest standards of quality.
Our parent company, BayWa AG, generates annual turnover of approximately 17.2 billion euros and has been doing business in the agricultural sector since 1923. Furthermore, in addition to our support as an expert partner during the planning and realisation of the system, we also offer to look after the entire operations and management of the system in the long term.
- Do Agri-PV systems impair the economic viability of agricultural crops?
No, because in the framework of the strategy for the agricultural use of the land, a break-even analysis must be carried out for the crops involved. The profit margins for the agricultural products must be positive. Our top priority: Every project that we implement should provide added value for you as a farmer and generate a financial return.
- Does the way the panels are mounted make it more difficult to work the land?
The solar panels have to be installed and distributed across the overall project area in such a way that the land can continue to be used as it was previously, for the most part. The vertical clearance of the Agri-PV systems must comply with the laws on occupational health and safety, and be at least 2.1 meters in any event. The panels must be mounted in such a way that the land can still be worked.
- How do you ensure the optimal availability and uniformity of light for my crops?
The light intensity or degree of shading and the uniformity of the light, as well as peripheral effects, are examined and configured for the needs of the specific agricultural products. The transparency of the panels that we use is adapted to the particular crop involved.
- With regard to crop changes, what restrictions am I under once the mounting system has been established and the panels have been chosen?
Our specially designed transparent solar panels are ideal for berries like raspberries, currants, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. The substructure can also be designed in such a way that cultivation in soil is possible, e.g. for perennial raspberries. In the case of cultivation in a substrate, the rotation of crops plays a role with regard to soil exhaustion. The same is true for perennial crops, such as espalier fruit or wine grapes, especially considering that these crops are in place for over 15 years and might then be replanted or grafted.
- Will my crops get enough water underneath an Agri-PV system?
The availability of water, to the extent influenced by the Agri-PV system, is adapted to the growing conditions of the crop in question. We take care to ensure a uniform distribution of rainwater for the crops beneath the Agri-PV system, and this can be optimised through extra technical equipment. Beneath an Agri-PV system there will also always be some areas that aren’t covered by solar collectors.
- Is soil erosion a problem?
We offer appropriate technical solutions for this and take the agricultural requirements into account. There is a certain maximum width to be respected for any row of panels. Likewise, collection basins or draining equipment can be used for rainwater. Systems for distributing rainwater can also prevent the formation of icicles in the winter.
- Can an Agri-PV system be completely removed again after it is installed?
An Agri-PV system can be fully removed so that the land is restored to its original state and any options for agricultural use remain available after the system is dismantled. Both when installing the systems and dismantling them, we ensure that there are no negative consequences to the soil through compaction. To that end, we use special tyres and machinery and/or moveable tracks. We also take care that the system is installed at the proper time, outside of the growing season.
- What is the minimum height at which an Agri-PV system can be mounted above my crops?
The solar panels have to be installed with a clearance of 2.1 meters so that the land can continue to be used as it was previously, for the most part.
- What foundations are laid for an Agri-PV system, and how is it anchored?
There are various construction methods that allow both temporary and permanent fixture in soil or soft ground, creating a secure foundation that takes into account all of the important aspects with regard to static equilibrium and stability. In any event, the foundation is always built in a way that ensures the system is fully removable.
- Is Agri-PV a proven technology?
Agri-PV requires no new technologies. It is a new application of an existing and proven technology. The system is based on the engineering experience of BayWa r.e., which has installed more than 1.2 GWp of capacity in the field of ground-mounted PV. Maintenance is performed by the operations and maintenance team of BayWa r.e., which guarantees smooth operation throughout the entire service life of the project. In the case of an Agri-PV system from BayWa r.e., the return, risk and administrative expense are comparable to an investment in our ground-mounted photovoltaic projects, because our experienced teams look after all of the details.
- What is the average service life of an Agri-PV system?
Like our ground-mounted photovoltaic projects, our Agri-PV systems have a service life of over 30 years.
- Who is responsible for the operation and maintenance of an Agri-PV system?
Experts from BayWa r.e. see to the operation and maintenance. The operations and maintenance teams already have experience with wind and solar farms with a total capacity of more than 10 GW. Our central control room in Munich monitors all of the systems around the clock, 24 hours a day.
- What effects can be expected from Agri-PV systems for the nearby population with regard to reflections (e.g. in immediate proximity to residential areas)?
Considering that the panels are mounted overhead, there should be no adverse effects. On the contrary, Agri-PV systems replace the short-lived materials that were previously needed to protect plants.
- What potential do Agri-PV systems have in Europe and worldwide?
Since 2014, approximately 2,800 Agri-PV systems have been installed worldwide, which represents a total capacity of about 2.9 GWp. Most of these systems are in Asian countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. But there have been some initial installations in the United States and Europe as well. For Germany, there exists a technical potential of approximately 1.7 TWp.
- How much does energy from Agri-PV systems cost compared to energy from ground-mounted PV systems?
Agri-PV is currently more expensive than ground-mounted PV systems. As the technology progresses, however, the costs will continue to fall. Until then, it would be important to have subsidies for Agri-PV, like the subsidy programmes in the Netherlands and France, in order to promote this application of photovoltaics in Europe and worldwide and be in a position to meet the great demand that exists in agriculture.
- What has to happen in order for Agri-PV to gain a foothold in Europe?
In France, the total capacity of Agri-PV systems is already over 40 MWp. There, Agri-PV is being promoted through ‘innovation Request For Proposals (RFPs)’. Similar support would be urgently needed in other European countries, too, so that Europe can make full use of the huge potential in terms of land area and take full advantage of the synergies that result for the farmers and the entire population.