BayWa r.e. expands agroPV project in the Netherlands to protect crops from extreme weather

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The 1.2MWp park aims to provide a more stable climate for growing redcurrants. Image: BayWa r.e.

BayWa r.e. and its Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven have expanded an agrophotovoltaic installation in the Netherlands to help protect fruit from hail, heavy rain and extreme heat.

First set up as a pilot project at a farm in the province of Gelderland last year, the park has been expanded to include 4,500 modules for a capacity of 1.2MWp.

With no need for plastic arches, BayWa r.e. said the cultivation support facility is a unique agroPV farm that provides a more stable climate for growing redcurrants.

Initial trials at the farm in 2019 featured two types of solar modules, including a semi-transparent variant that were tested with raspberries. The trial was expanded last year in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research to look at the effectiveness of installing solar panels above different berries.

Results showed that the installation of solar panels created both favourable temperatures for the plants and better protection from adverse weather conditions.

“These pilot projects were a real success. We monitored not only the climate under the panels, but also the plant health and fruit growth,” said Stephan Schindele, product manager of agri-PV at BayWa r.e.

The company said that as well as the clean energy it provides, the installation’s protection against extreme weather represents added value for farmers.

Rini Kusters, who owns the fruit farm, said extreme weather events are becoming more common, affecting plant growth: “The development of fungus on the fruit due to a too wet climate, for example, is a problem that is increasingly frequent. On the hottest day last year, it was 10 degrees cooler under the solar panels; on the wettest day, the plants remained dry. It’s a solution that I really believe in.”

BayWa r.e. is currently collaborating with fruit producers across Europe to develop agroPV projects with a total capacity of 35MWp by 2022, while its parent company BayWa is part of a German project spearheaded by Fraunhofer ISE that is exploring land use conflicts between solar farms and agricultural land.

Other recent developments in the global agroPV space have Enel Green Power begin trials at nine pilot plants in southern Europe, while construction is set to begin in the coming months at two community PV parks in Spain that will explore the impact of solar shading on the cultivation of tropical fruit.

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