Picture: Johannes Scharf, TFZ

Agri-Photovoltaics: Status and open questions

Agri-Photovoltaic (Agri-PV) offers the possibility to combine agriculture and power generation on one area. This principle was first described as early as the 1980s, but has only been applied in some countries since around 2013. Since land consumption in Germany is very high by European standards, this type of electricity generation is fundamentally an attractive model. So far, however, there are hardly any projects that have been implemented in Germany. Scientific monitoring and investigation of the impact of the plants on agricultural yields has so far only been carried out in one project. Nevertheless, Agri-PV is often associated with various benefits.

This report is intended to verify the advantages mentioned on the basis of existing plants as well as available literature and with the help of expert discussions and – as far as possible on this basis – to back them up with concrete figures, thus providing an overview of the current state of knowledge on the subject of Agri-PV. For still existing open questions, instructions for action and target-oriented experimental concepts are to be developed in order to establish a corresponding data basis for Bavarian site conditions, various module systems, the valid legal framework as well as typical food and raw material plants in a later project. In all cases, the difference to a classic photovoltaic open space system (PV-FFA) is considered in order to be able to quantify the advantages and disadvantages of the available Agri-PV systems as precisely as possible, e.g. with regard to investment costs and land revenue.

Agri-PV systems currently tend to be more expensive than conventional PV FFA. At the same time, less power per area can be installed in an Agri PV system than in conventional PV FFA. In addition, mounting systems require portions of land that reduce available agricultural use. Depending on the system design, these areas that can no longer be used for agriculture account for eight to fifteen percent of the area of the Agri-PV system. From an economic point of view, it therefore seems to make more sense to use open-space photovoltaic systems and agricultural land separately. However, Agri-PV should not be established primarily where conventional ground-mounted systems would otherwise be installed. They can offer a sensible supplement, especially where the construction of conventional PV FFA is not possible: After an initial boom in PV FFA, increasingly restrictive land regulations were subsequently introduced in order to preserve valuable agricultural land and protect farmers from a “rent war” with photovoltaic operators. Due to these regulations, the current land envelope for PV FFA is quite limited.

Here Agri-PV offers the possibility to develop agricultural land without preventing agricultural use. In the best case, Agri-PV can even support crop production through shading effects or mechanical protection of the cultivated (special) crops.

Excerpt from Agri-Photovoltaics: Status and Open Questions, TZF 2021