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