© Fraunhofer ISE

Bay­Wa r.e. and Fraun­hofer ISE pro­vide impor­tant impe­tus for CO2-neu­tral fruit cul­ti­va­tion with first agri-PV sys­tem for apples in Germany

Bay­Wa r.e., a pio­neer in the field of agri-PV solu­tions, and the Fraun­hofer Insti­tute for Solar Ener­gy Sys­tems ISE, togeth­er with oth­er research part­ners, have built the first agri-PV research facil­i­ty for apples and espalier fruit at the Nachtwey organ­ic fruit farm in Gels­dorf in Rhineland-Palati­nate. It is the first plant of its kind in Ger­many. The total test area of the research project “Agri-PV Fruit Grow­ing” cov­ers approx. 9100 m², the Agri-PV sys­tem was installed with an out­put of 258 kWp on approx. 1/3 of the area of the site.

The over­all objec­tive of the project, which is fund­ed by the Rhineland-Palati­nate Min­istry for the Envi­ron­ment, Ener­gy, Food and Forestry (MUEEF) and the Ger­man Fed­er­al Min­istry of Food and Agri­cul­ture (BMEL), is to increase cli­mate resilience in fruit grow­ing and to ensure safe and sus­tain­able apple pro­duc­tion with addi­tion­al solar pow­er generation.

With­in the frame­work of the project, which will run for a total of five years, numer­ous fac­tors will be inves­ti­gat­ed on eight apple varieties.

The project first com­pares apple pro­duc­tion at the same site under three dif­fer­ent crop pro­tec­tion sys­tems: Film Pro­tec­tion (non-rain per­me­able), Hail Pro­tec­tion (rain per­me­able), and Agri-PV with fixed translu­cent PV mod­ules (non-rain per­me­able) and tracked PV mod­ules (rain per­me­able when need­ed). It will be inves­ti­gat­ed to what extent Agri-PV sys­tems can pro­tect plants and fruits from dam­ag­ing envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences such as hail, heavy rain, sun­burn, frost or extreme temperatures.

In addi­tion, the extent to which dif­fer­ent light man­age­ment by dif­fer­ent PV mod­ule con­fig­u­ra­tions has an impact on plant growth and agri­cul­tur­al yields will be test­ed. Fur­ther­more, the plant is to be exam­ined with regard to land­scape aes­thet­ics, eco­nom­ic effi­cien­cy, social com­pat­i­bil­i­ty and plant cul­ti­va­tion parameters.

Stephan Schin­dele, Head of Prod­uct Man­age­ment Agri-PV at Bay­Wa r.e. com­ments on the project: “We see Agri-PV as a long-term solu­tion to help farm­ers adapt to the con­se­quences of cli­mate change. We can pre­serve the exist­ing ecosys­tem and even enhance it through syn­er­gy effects and solar pow­er gen­er­a­tion.”

After we have very suc­cess­ful­ly realised pro­fes­sion­al berry cul­ti­va­tion under Agri-PV in the Nether­lands, we are tak­ing the impor­tant step towards espalier fruit in Gels­dorf. We have rec­og­nized that the poten­tial and syn­er­gies for Agri-PV com­bined with apple, pear, cher­ry, kiwi and oth­er per­ma­nent crops can be con­sid­er­able. We would like to tap this poten­tial in the long term and enable fur­ther expan­sion of pho­to­voltaics with­out restrict­ing agri­cul­tur­al yields.

In addi­tion to adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change and the pro­tec­tion of agri­cul­tur­al assets, the Agri-PV project in Gels­dorf also aims to demon­strate eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits for farm­ers. These some­times include per­ma­nent­ly low­er and more cal­cu­la­ble ener­gy costs, low­er invest­ment costs in crop pro­tec­tion and low­er oper­at­ing mate­r­i­al and waste dis­pos­al costs.

Andreas Stein­hüs­er, Deputy Group Leader Agri-Pho­to­voltaics at Fraun­hofer ISE, adds: “The research project “Agri-PV Fruit Grow­ing” not only aims to iden­ti­fy ways of reduc­ingCO2 emis­sions in agri­cul­ture, but also to avoid the use of short-lived mate­ri­als and the use of pes­ti­cides and fungi­cides, thus mak­ing a deci­sive con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate pro­tec­tion. In addi­tion, we also focus on soci­etal issues such as accep­tance and social com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, as these aspects will play a deci­sive role in the fur­ther spread of Agri-PV.

The elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed by the Agri-PV sys­tem can be used upstream and down­stream of apple pro­duc­tion. On the one hand, the bat­tery-elec­tric trac­tor Fendt 100 Vario pro­vid­ed by AGCO GmbH is charged with elec­tric­i­ty from the plant. On the oth­er hand, the ener­gy is also used to sup­ply the irri­ga­tion sys­tem with Agri-PV’s own elec­tric­i­ty. The cold store is already sup­plied with green elec­tric­i­ty by a PV roof sys­tem. Over­all, the imple­men­ta­tion of an oper­a­tional ener­gy con­cept is an attempt to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduceCO2 emis­sions on the farm through solar electrification.

In addi­tion, Bay­Wa r.e. can draw on the many years of exper­tise in fruit grow­ing of the par­ent com­pa­ny Bay­Wa AG. The film and hail pro­tec­tion sys­tems next to the Agri-PV plant in Gels­dorf were imple­ment­ed by Bay­Wa Agrar Obst und Hopfen­zen­trum from Tet­tnang. Plant phys­i­o­log­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing is made pos­si­ble by “NEXT Farm­ing”. With the help of this soft­ware man­age­ment sys­tem from Bay­Wa AG, farm­ers can con­trol their entire oper­a­tion as well as irri­ga­tion. Through data mon­i­tor­ing and weath­er fore­casts, farm­ers are con­tin­u­ous­ly informed about pos­si­ble risks in order to be able to con­trol their cultivation.

Dr. Benedikt Ort­mann, Glob­al Direc­tor of Solar Projects at Bay­Wa r.e., sum­maris­es: “In Europe in par­tic­u­lar, we see enor­mous poten­tial for Agri-PV appli­ca­tions in fruit grow­ing, as there are large areas under cul­ti­va­tion. With this research project, we want to show how sus­tain­able, high-qual­i­ty apple pro­duc­tion can suc­ceed and at the same time advance the ener­gy tran­si­tion. Togeth­er with agri­cul­ture, we’re cre­at­ing a win-win sit­u­a­tion for every­one in the fight against cli­mate change, ‘enjoy­ment with­out regret’ so to speak.”

In addi­tion to Bay­Wa r.e. and Fraun­hofer ISE, the DLR Rheinpfalz (agri­cul­tur­al sci­ence), Fendt, EWS Schö­nau and the organ­ic fruit farm Nachtwey are involved as research part­ners in the project.

Source: Bay­wa r.e.