Spanish energy company Iberdrola is to provide technical and financial support to four projects that are focused on promoting the coexistence of solar plants with agriculture, livestock farming and horticulture.
Having received 110 proposals to its PERSEO start-up programme, Iberdrola has selected four projects that are aimed at creating synergies on land used primarily for farming that is also suitable for solar in order to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the facilities.
Among the four winners are Spanish company EcoEnergías del Guadiana, which has presented a pilot project to combine tomato cultivation under fixed or retractable structures that support solar modules, making it possible to mitigate plant stress during heat waves, save water and improve harvest yields.
Another winner features a collaboration between three companies – including Spanish tracker manufacturer PVH – that are developing an artificial intelligence algorithm to control trackers, allowing them to adapt to the needs of vineyards while also optimising PV production.
Also selected is French start-up Ombrea, which has created a solution featuring solar modules to project plants from extreme heat, drought, hail and frost.
Iberdrola will give the winning companies access to equipment, teams, infrastructure and co-working areas. If a pilot project is successful, the utility may also offer the participant the opportunity to scale up its solution with a commercial agreement or direct investment in the company.
Since its creation in 2008, Iberdrola’s PERSEO programme has invested €70 million (US$80 million) in start-ups that are developing technologies and business models that improve the sustainability of the energy sector through greater electrification and decarbonisation.
Iberdrola’s work in agrivoltaics saw it install 162 beehives at its Andévalo solar plant in southern Spain earlier this year, an initiative the company said it would roll out at other projects to show how introducing pollinators at renewable installations located near agricultural land can improve crop performance.
The potential of co-locating solar with agriculture is also being explored at a new research facility in Germany from developer BayWa r.e. and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. The partners are testing different PV module configurations at a 258kWp array to identify the impact on plant growth and crop yields.