Agrivoltaic system for carbon neutral orchards


Within the framework of the “APV-Obstbau” project, BayWa re and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have cooperated with other research partners to set up an agrivoltaic system for research purposes at the “Bio -Obsthof Nachtwey “in Gelsdorf, Rhineland-Palatinate. It is the first system of its kind in Germany. The total test area of ​​the project covers approximately 9,100 square meters. The agrivoltaic system, with a capacity of 258 kWp, was installed on about a third of the plot.

The overall objective of the project, which was funded by the State Ministry of Climate Protection, Environment, Energy and Mobility of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, is to increase climate resilience in orchards and ensure the safe and sustainable production of apples while generating solar energy.

Eight different apple varieties will be used to explore several research questions during this project, which is planned over five years.

The project first compares apple production in the same location under four different crop protection systems: aluminum cover (blocks rain), hail protection nets (does not block rain), APV with permanent PV modules and light permeable (blocks rain) and tracking PV Modules (blocks rain if necessary). Two different types of modules are used, with solar cells arranged either in strips or in blocks. The aim is to determine how well agrivoltaic systems protect plants and fruits from harmful environmental influences such as hail, heavy rains, sunburn, frost or extreme temperatures.

Researchers will also study to what extent different approaches to managing light using different configurations of photovoltaic modules influence plant growth and crop yields. Other aspects of the system relating to landscape aesthetics, economic viability, social compatibility and plant growing parameters will also be examined.

Stephan Schindele, Head of Product Management for APV at BayWa re commented on the project: “We believe that agro-voltaics is a long-term solution that helps farmers adapt to the consequences of climate change. We can maintain the existing ecosystem and harness additional potential through synergy effects and solar energy production. “

“After seeing tremendous success using APV with professional berry crops in the Netherlands, we decided to take the next big step towards espalier fruit in Gelsdorf. We recognized the potential and synergies associated with VPA, which can have tremendous effects on permanent crops such as apples, pears, cherries, kiwis and others. This potential is something that we want to harness in the long term, while also allowing the expansion of photovoltaics without land use conflicts.

Economic benefits for farmers

The APV project in Gelsdorf also aims to demonstrate the economic benefits for farmers, in addition to agro-voltaics helping them adapt to climate change and protect their crops. The economic benefits include lower and more predictable long-term energy costs, lower investment costs for crop protection as well as lower costs for operating materials and waste disposal.

Andreas Steinhüser, Acting Group Manager for VPA at Fraunhofer ISE adds: avoiding unsustainable materials as well as pesticides and fungicides. We also focus on solving societal issues such as acceptance and social compatibility, which will play a crucial role in the expansion of VPA.

The power generated by the agrivoltaic system can be used in upstream and downstream applications related to apple production. For example, the power of the APV system is used to operate an electric tractor supplied by AGCO GmbH. The energy is also used to supply the irrigation system with self-generated APV electricity. A photovoltaic system on the roof is already in use to supply the cold room with green energy. Overall, by implementing an operational energy concept, the goal is to significantly reduce the carbon emissions of the farm through solar electrification.
The aluminum roof and the hail protection nets, which serve as reference systems, were installed by “BayWa Agrar Obst und Hopfenzentrum” in Tettnang. The physiological monitoring of plants is made possible by “NEXT Farming”. With this software management system from BayWa AG, farmers can control their entire farm as well as their irrigation system. Farmers are constantly informed of possible risks based on meteorological data monitoring and forecasting, which allows them to control their crops.

Besides BayWa re and Fraunhofer ISE, the following research partners are involved in the project: DLR Rheinpfalz (Agrarwissenschaft), Fendt (AGCO GmbH), EWS Schönau and the Bio-Obsthof Nachtwey.


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