Farmers reap two benefits of solar energy in the field | DW | 14.08.2021

Fabian Maartus grew up in the sun.

“My father built the first photovoltaic system on the roof of a barn and you can see that it worked,” he says.

Today, the farmer is 33 years old and has two large solar systems. Berries now grow under one. Five years ago, Carthaus took over his father’s farm near the town of Paderborne in western Germany.

The trained electrical engineer works as a product manager for agricultural electronics during the day – because “I can’t feed my family by growing 80 hectares of bean, grain, rye and maize crops.

Fabian Cartus grows berries under solar panels and wants to expand in the future

In recent years, temperatures and droughts have plummeted.

“My wife and I began to think about how we could continue farming in a meaningful way,” says Cartes. This is how the idea of ​​growing berries under the roof of the sun with translucent modules was born.

“We wondered what kind of berry would go with what kind of light and shade. Blueberries and strawberries are plants, so that works. ”

Last year, the first crop from seedling was good. The plants usually grow outdoors or in foil caves.

But they suspect that the maps under the modules could increase productivity. The hottest summer is now a growing problem for plants, even in Germany. According to the map, roofs made of solar modules save water by reducing evaporation.

“We’ve done it once. Eva is about a quarter of the time on the ground,” he explains.

Fabian Maartus points to the bottom of a row of solar panels

The panels are assembled to allow for a certain amount of light

Power from above, berries from below

Of course, the modules also provide electricity. With 750 kilowatts of power, the system generates about 640,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is equal to the electricity demand of 160 households.

The card feeds to the grid and receives less than W 0.06 ($ 0.07) per kWh. He wants to use part of the solar energy to run his own cooling and drying systems. If he has to buy electricity from the power supplier, that is in KWW.

“It is a win-win situation for everyone. This means we can generate energy for local, decentralized, green energy,” he said.

In Germany, this method works well for soft fruits, apples, cherries, potatoes, and products such as tomatoes and pumpkins. In other parts of the world, different plants and modular designs may be more suitable.

Large greenhouse with solar panels in Zheng, China

In Fujian Province, China, this sprawling greenhouse is equipped with complex solar panels

Great potential around the world

Max Tromsordorf, of the Agrovoltaics Institute of Solar Energy Systems at the Frankfurt Institute of Solar Energy Systems in the southern German city of Friburg, is growing interest in the world. Agrivoltaic is a fun way to grow food and produce photovoltaic electricity at the same time. Trommdorf and his colleagues consult with governments around the world and have recently organized an international conference on solar energy and agriculture.

Depending on the location, one should consider the lighting conditions suitable for plants and the local demand for electricity, says Trommdorf.

“There are huge regional differences – it depends on what it is growing, what the climate zones are, what the rural structures are.

A farm vehicle moves to the parking lot under the solar panels

Farmers in southern Germany are experimenting with these fields to see what will grow best there

The biggest challenge, he says, is consensus: “What can photovoltaic do? What does agriculture need for successful integration? ”

Trommsdorff and his colleagues see great potential for agrovoltaic around the world. There are some agrovoltaic plants in Europe, Mali, Gambia and Chile. But so far the largest group is in Asia.

The world’s largest plant, with a capacity of about 1,000 megawatts and covering an area of ​​20 square kilometers (about 8 square miles), is located on the edge of the Gobi Desert in China. Growing goji berries under modular roofs is intended to rejuvenate the dry land.

And farmers in Japan are already assembling more than 2,000 agrovoltaic systems.

“The goal is to support structural change, stop rural migration, and create hope for rural people,” says Trommdorf.

Aerial view of the solar field

Some berry growers in the Netherlands replace plastic roofs for solar panels

In Europe, France is a major player in the vineyard. There, government subsidies for modular roofs are intended to protect vineyards.

“Many grapes get a lot of sun and heat because of climate change,” explains Trommdorf. “Shadow can bring some benefits here.”

New promises for agriculture

Fabian Maartus plans to expand its future solar farm. Berries now grow on less than 0.4 hectares (about 1 hectare) of solar panels. I want to expand this to 8 or 10 acres, then it will be really worth it.

But the map must be patient. He says the expansion is still difficult for farmers in Germany.

But he hopes to change that soon. And he is still advising other farmers to “start dealing with the topic,” even if it takes some time to implement in his own fields.

This article has been edited from German.


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