A new research project at the faculties of Agriculture/Environment/Chemistry and Civil Engineering is investigating how photovoltaic systems can be operated in parallel with agriculture.
Agriphotovoltaic (Agri-PV) systems allow the generation of solar electricity while using the land for arable farming. In most cases, the systems consist of solar modules set up at an angle to the south. To ensure that the field can still be driven over by machines, the modules must be set up far apart or elevated so that they can be driven under. However, this procedure is very costly and material-intensive. In addition, the placement of the modules leads to uneven distribution of precipitation and takes a lot of land away from agricultural production.
An alternative are photovoltaic systems with vertically mounted bifacial solar modules, which generate electricity from both the front and the back and require little arable land. In the project “Agri-PV with vertically mounted bifacial modules on field crop sites”, the scientists intend to set up a test facility to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of such systems for arable farming. In order to record the effects of such modules, the researchers are developing measuring and recording systems that will enable them to evaluate various parameters relating to soil properties, environmental influences, meteorological variables and agricultural production data.
In the PV plant it is also planned to set up a so-called Controlled Traffic Farming system, i.e. only very few lanes will be given and only these may be used by the tractors and other vehicles. In this way, the proportion of overrun area is kept as low as possible during cultivation.
In addition, a biotope network is to be created. Since no cultivation takes place under the module rows, small biotopes are created in each case. By creating flowering strips between the rows of modules and towards the edges of the fields, these can be interconnected and thus embedded in the environment.
smart farming technologies
Precision Farming/ Smart Farming technologies will be used for the cultivation of the area. “With these technologies, a field is no longer managed uniformly. Instead, it is divided into many small sub-areas where cultivation, care and fertilization are carried out individually and adapted to the respective needs. At the same time, the cultivation machines collect much more data than before and exchange it through networking, so that the work processes running in the machines can be improved,” explains project manager Professor Karl Wild.
Several professorships of the HTW Dresden are involved in the project, including agricultural engineering, landscape ecology, biodiversity/nature conservation and engineering hydrology. Cooperation partners are the Schönfelder Hochland estate management and the Next2Sun company.
The aim is to present the opportunities and risks of such dual use to a broad public. For example, a visitor platform will be used to present the plant. “In addition to a virtual platform, we would also like to set up a real platform directly at the experimental plant in Pillnitz. There, there will be information on Agri-Photovoltaics and performance data of the plant in real time. Furthermore, a charging station for e‑bikes is planned at the visitor platform, which draws its power from the Agri PV plant,” Professor Wild gives as an outlook.
The project is being funded by the Saxon Ministry for Energy, Climate Protection, Environment and Agriculture (SMEKUL) with around € 450,000 from the economic stimulus package “Sustainably out of the crisis” and will run until the end of 2022. This measure is co-financed with tax revenue on the basis of the budget adopted by the Saxon Land Parliament.