Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines

Foreword Agrisolar is a rapidly expanding sector with incredible potential. It brings together two major sectors of our society and economy: agriculture and energy. With the first edition of the SolarPower Europe Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines, we take an exciting first step in joining forces with agricultural stakeholders, to better understand how the solar and agricultural sector can work more closely together, enhancing synergies to advance the energy and climate transition. Enhancing the cooperation between the solar and agricultural world is essential for tackling one of the most important issues at the core of our modern livelihood, food production and electricity generation: access to land. Agrisolar enables us to move away from the traditional land-use competition towards a new paradigm
based on synergies between agriculture and renewable energy. Moreover, Agrisolar can deliver a much-needed boost to sustainable rural development and can increase biodiversity protection. We launched our workstream in April 2020 amid the largest health and economic crisis of the last hundred years. But 2020 was also the year of the European Green Deal, which sets the European Union on a path to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. With our work, we plan to leverage the EU’s renewable energy ambition to
achieve the nine objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy. Our ambition is to foster a more sustainable and qualitative agriculture, that is more respectful of its environment, and to cope with the increasing environmental hazards related to climate change. Furthermore, this will empower farmers to be at the heart of the European Green Deal and the post-COVID green recovery.

Introduction Climate change has exacerbated environmental issues in the European Union (“EU”), caused by the combination of increased greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, pollution, changes in land use, and declining biodiversity. Agriculture is one of the most climate-dependent socio-economic sectors, with climate change affecting the sector in complex ways. Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of the increasing variability of the timing and amount of precipitation, and the increase of extreme weather and climate events such as higher average temperatures or prolonged droughts.1 Between 2007 and 2016, land temperatures in Europe were about 1.6°C warmer than in pre-industrial times.2 The agricultural sector is also a contributor to climate change3 as global carbon, water, and nutrient cycles have been impacted by agricultural practices.4 5 Agriculture is the second largest contributor to GHG emissions in the EU, only behind the energy sector. While energy-related emissions have continuously declined over the last decades,6 emissions from agriculture have remained almost constant at around 600 MtCO2e emitted per year.

Sustainable agriculture and photovoltaics The transition towards a more sustainable agricultural and food sector has been identified as one of the key priorities of the European Green Deal. Agrisolar can contribute to this ambition while simultaneously accelerating the EU’s energy sector’s decarbonisation.

the European Commission proposed to set a “net-zero land take” objective.13 Agriculture, forestry, and fishing represent the lion’s share of water consumption in the EU, accounting for approximately 40% of water resources in 2015.14 Sustainable management of scarce water resources will be essential to maintaining agricultural practices in the EU. Agriculture is one of the most climate-dependent socio-economic sectors, with climate change affecting the sector in complex ways. Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change, due to the increased instability of the amount of precipitation and timing of precipitation and the recurrence of extreme climate and weather events (higher average temperatures and long droughts).15 Between 2007 and 2016, land temperatures in Europe were about 1.6°C warmer than in pre-industrial times.16 It is further affected by the ecological and environmental crisis endangering pollinating insects, increasing threat from pests on plants under stress and affecting bio-organisms that regenerate the productive ability of
the soil.

Enable sustainable development in rural areas through higher yields and new business opportunities. The smart combination of solar and agricultural infrastructure can enable rural communities to become more competitive and sustainable.29 The co-location of agriculture and PV enables the achievement of a higher land-use efficiency. Simulations indicate that Agrivoltaic systems may increase land use efficiency up to 60 to 70%, when compared to equivalent monosystems.30 An experimental Agri-PV system with potatoes in Germany led to a 103% yield when compared to a control, while the PV systems generated 83% of the electricity that would have been generated on the similar plot of land, leading to an 86% increase in land use efficiency.

Agri-PV systems – EPC and O&M There are a wide variety of approaches to Agri-PV systems. In this chapter we outline several archetypes of Agri-PV systems and describe useful case studies to illustrate them. The differences between these archetypes are not clear cut. In fact, the case studies described exist on a continuum of the different types of systems. However, an analytical distinction is helpful to establish broad categories of Agri-PV systems. Following these descriptions, we outline key steps that should be followed to ensure Agri-PV projects are aligned with the requirements of a project SAC.

In 2015, Akuo, launched the first Agri-PV project in mainland France, located in Occitania Region (Gard). With an installed capacity of 2 MW generated through photovoltaic shading structures, the “Bellegarde” project combines power generation with the farming of organic apricots and beekeeping. Akuo’s agricultural subsidiary, Agriterra, in partnership with the farmer Marc Portier conducted a previous agronomic analysis of the project. As a result, the crops and the technology were adapted to the characteristics of the territory. The PV structure was designed to fit the specificities of the land and farming needs. Apricots’ variety was carefully selected to ensure its integration with the panels, thereby turning Agri-PV constraints into opportunities. Hence, yields improved significantly, standing now between 10 to 12 t/ha.

PV on agricultural building Buildings are typically the second most important expense of the farm. By acting as a third-party investor, the solar sector can provide farmers with solid buildings complying with building standards that integrate rooftop solar. This enables the set-up of business models which reduce and even eliminate the costs incurred by farmers in constructing agricultural buildings. In turn, farmers can concentrate and channel investments to develop their agricultural activity, their core business activity. The design of the agricultural building will depend on the agricultural activity that has been defined in the SAC. A grain farmer will need large volumes, whereas a poultry farmer will need ventilation.

Trends and Innovations We have identified several trends and innovations that will contribute to further integrating agricultural practices and photovoltaics, improve the quality of Agri-PV systems, optimise synergies between agriculture and PV and improve levels of environmental and socio-economic sustainability.

Conclusion To deliver the European Green Deal and reach climate neutrality by 2050 we must accelerate both the decarbonisation of our energy system and the transition to sustainable agriculture. To achieve the former, the EU and its Member states must significantly accelerate the deployment of additional renewable energy capacity. For the latter to happen, EU Member States and institutions must ensure the future CAP is in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal. Now is the time to deliver on these objectives through Agrisolar, a successful cross-sectoral collaboration between the agricultural and solar PV sectors. Through Agrisolar both sectors foster sustainable rural development, optimise agricultural yields, increase revenues for farmers, deliver on the 9 objectives of the CAP, and generate clean electricity. When appropriately designed, built, operated, and maintained, Agrisolar projects contribute to the EU’s climate and sustainable agriculture ambitions. The case studies featured in these guidelines (Chapter 3. Agri-PV systems – EPC & O&M and Chapter 4. PV on agricultural building) showcase successful examples of this cross-sectoral approach contributing to the objectives of the European Green Deal.


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