Multi-functional solar parks set to be next big trend

Representatives from the company said that solar parks need to take on new functions in order to boost their positive traits. As such, the company believes that they could also function as biotopes.

Consequently, Gehrlicher has created a partnership with the Bundesamt für Natur-Schutz (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) as well as the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (German Solar Industry Association) to gather evidence to prove that solar parks can be biodiverse.

The representatives at the visit said the idea stemmed from the possibility that a landscape does not have to be completely stripped of its existing vegetation, in order to provide land for renewable energy development. “One positive sign was all we needed to embark on this project on a higher level,” pv magazine was told.

Although the company admitted that there has not been in depth scientific studies or evidence of the solar park providing the right conditions for a biotope to develop, the initial studies have shown positive results for certain species of plants.

For example, it said that the meadow vegetation that grows abundantly around, beneath and even through the gaps of the thin film modules, shows hope for biodiversity to exist alongside photovoltaics.

Furthermore, it added that the shaded conditions beneath the panels offer the possibility for yet another habitat that thrives in such conditions to develop.

pv magazine also spoke with industry players at Intersolar 2010 about this idea, in order to gauge their reactions. The general response was that there is criticism surrounding solar parks, due to the fact that they can be environmentally-unfriendly in terms of land use.

The opportunity costs of deploying large land area required for utility-scale solar power plants – approximately one square kilometer for every 20-60 megawatts – have however been taken into account, says Gehrlicher. The company also said that other renewable energy sources require large parcels of land as well, but that solar, rather unfortunately being the more expensive green energy source, has been the main target.