Definition of agrivoltaism
Agrivoltaism or Agri-PV is a method which allows the coupling of main agricultural production with secondary energy production. This is a unique way of creating beneficial synergies between agricultural activity and solar energy, on the same surface.
Agrivoltaism makes it possible to drive the agricultural and energy transition of territories by combining food production and sustainable energy production on the same surface. It is a proven strategy for farmers to adapt to climatic hazards and an innovative solution to protect their crops while producing renewable electricity.
Agrivoltaism with BayWa r.e., a natural partner of the agricultural world
- Our vision
Climate change is a reality for our country's more than 400,000 farms. Climatic hazards are increasingly recurrent (spring frost, hail, extreme temperatures), resources are becoming rare (water) and expensive (energy).
Younger generations no longer dare to engage in this profession with such unpredictable income and difficult working conditions. Yet more than a third of farms are looking for a buyer by 2030. Renewal is not happening, endangering our food sovereignty.
BayWa r.e., from an agricultural cooperative, is keen to offer solutions to the agricultural world to face these new challenges. Agrivoltaism is one of them.
By its proximity to the agricultural world, BayWa r.e. was one of the pioneers in developing agrivoltaic projects, like the Heggelbach project on field crops in Germany.
Since then, it has increased the number of pilot projects in Western Europe in order to test our technologies on different types of crops. These pilots allow us to obtain feedback with the aim of optimizing our technologies and maximizing synergy with agricultural production.
BayWa r.e. offers three main types of agrivoltaic solutions depending on the production concerned:
- Overhead PV
- Interspace PV
- Pasture PV
BayWa r.e. is present throughout the life of a project: development, construction, operation and maintenance, repowering, dismantling. For each stage of carrying out and promoting a project, BayWa r.e. thus has the internal capabilities to design, analyze, build and operate solar parks.
For a project in development, a committed and experienced team is therefore dedicated to it, made up of project managers and a network of internal experts (agronomist, environment, legal, consultation, engineering, connection and construction) in order to create a turnkey park.
Very active in the development of agrivoltaic projects, BayWa r.e. has already built 15 sites with overhead PV in Europe for around ten species. 35 of our European parks host sheep farming (100 MWp), including 12 in France.
Finally, 2 of our parks were designed with inter-row trackers with large crops.
The overhead PV solution is a fixed, raised structure on which photovoltaic modules are attached. The elevation compared to conventional ground panels allows cultivation below. Different panel transparencies can be used ranging from 0% to 49% depending on the needs of the culture. The orientation of these panels will depend on that of the plot. The structures are dimensioned (height, inter-row) according to each project in order to allow mechanization adapted to each operation.
- The operation
This agrivoltaic installation aims to:
- protect crops from climatic hazards (hail, late frost, violent wind, burns)
- reduce and optimize water consumption by reducing evapotranspiration
- produce carbon-free renewable energy
Other advantages are also visible:
- securing long-term yields with a solution adapted to climate change
- better working comfort for agricultural employees through the provision of shade and freshness
- additional income for farmers and security of agricultural areas
- a sustainable alternative to the use of plastic nets or tarpaulins
After a first pilot project built in 2016, BayWa r.e. today has a portfolio of 19 MWp in Europe of agrivoltaic fruit shade projects on around fifteen sites: 10 in the Netherlands, 2 in Austria and 3 in Germany.
These shade houses cover a diversity of crops ranging from raspberries to currants, pears, cherries, apples, plums… The “Babberich” agrivoltaic raspberry farm built in 2021 of 2.65 MWp (on 3.3 ha) was one of the most greats of Europe until BayWa r.e. exceeds its own record by building a 9 ha shade house site in Meierijstad in Holland for a power of 8.7 MWp.
Solar panels help protect crops in a more sustainable way. The plastic tunnels we used before had to be removed every year and were thrown away every 6 years.Piet Albers, Dutch producer of raspberries under shade since 2019
Last year, on the hottest day, it was 10 degrees cooler under the solar panels. On the wettest day, the plants remained dry. This is a solution that I truly believe in.Rinni Kusters, Dutch producer of gooseberries under shade since 2021
Meetings with BayWa r.e. and partner farmers in Germany and the Netherlands motivated me to set up together an agrivoltaic project of several hectares in Cavaillon to cover a plot of pome fruits. Agrivoltaism will finally help to motivate our children to continue the agricultural adventure by modernizing it, by facing future climate risks, and by mixing nature and technology on a daily basis.Jean-Michel Durand, arborist in Vaucluse in France
This technology recalls the principles of agroforestry with inter-row cultivation allowing a reduction in soil erosion, evapotranspiration and therefore a reduction in water consumption. Biodiversity zones (hedges, flowers, etc.) can be installed under the panels.
- The operation
This agrivoltaic installation has the advantages of:
- allow dual use of surfaces: conservation of agricultural use of land and production of energy
- to provide additional income for the farmer
- reduce water and thermal stress thanks to the shade of the panels
BayWa r.e. has built 3 parks with shade houses around the world (in Austria, Spain and Germany) for a power of around 5.4 MWp.
For grazing, BayWa r.e. offers fixed structures or trackers positioned horizontally in the presence of animals.
The project is designed for breeding activity with the installation of water troughs, channels to protect electrical wires, containment areas, suitable fences and grassy meadows according to the needs of the breeder. The latter has access to the site 24/7.
BayWa r.e. is diversifying into cattle projects with three projects under development in France. The structures are raised and reinforced to adapt to the size and power of these animals.
- The operation
This agrivoltaic installation has the advantages of:
- improve animal welfare thanks to the shelter offered by the panels in the event of a heat peak but also in the event of bad weather
- maintain and spread fodder production
- provide a secure space for animals
We have a portfolio of 100 MWp of sheep grazing in Europe with more than 35 parks in operation.
In France, we host sheep farming on a dozen solar parks.
For 6 years, the partnership with BayWa r.e. allows me to boost my breeding activity, quality fodder with abundant grass until September and shelter to protect the animals during bad weather, what more could you ask for!Cédric Pérez, sheep breeder in France
Our commitment to agricultural research
BayWa r.e. is proud to be part, since its creation, of the Strategic Orientation Committee of the National Center for Research, Innovation and Teaching in Agrivoltaism created by INRAe.
This consortium, which brings together actors from the public and private, agricultural and energy, research and teaching sectors, aims to pool the costs and risks of research, while sharing the benefits with a view to sustainable development and virtuous use of photovoltaic technology on agricultural land.
- SOLAR Project
BayWa r.e. is leading a 2-year Research and Development project called SOLAR for Optimization Solutions and Levers for Resilient Agrivoltaism since 2022 with INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment) in order to study this synergy between fodder and photovoltaic production on 3 parks that it operates.
Since 2020, BayWa r.e. launched COMPAs, a research and development project on the compatibility of vegetable crops and photovoltaic panels in partnership with groups of AgroParisTech agricultural engineering students.
The idea is to study the impact of photovoltaic panels on different weather parameters using weather stations. These stations are located on 3 photovoltaic parks benefiting from 3 different climates (oceanic, continental and Mediterranean). Comparing meteorological data with a control area allows us to better understand the influence of solar panels on meteorological parameters. At the end of this work, a selection of the most suitable crops was established: it allows us to guide the development of our agrivoltaic projects according to the needs of the crops.
Thanks to this R&D project, our teams were able to consolidate an agrivoltaic project in the town of Montmorillon in Vienne with several market gardeners. This R&D project guided us on the right choice of crops and the adaptation of our structures in favor of synergy between these two productions. Rigorous agronomic monitoring will be put in place and will allow us to confirm our hypotheses and make improvements to our future projects. And it's not over: a new group of students will continue this work from the next school year!
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