Researchers from Germany's Technology and Support Centre (TFZ) have made a comparison between the upfront costs of several types of agrivoltaic power plants and conventional ground-mounted projects.
In an 88-page report, the institute's experts have analyzed, on top of the agrivoltaic technology costs, its land-use rate, other economic aspects, the legal framework in Germany, social acceptance issues, and the current need for research.
The authors of the paper specified that the substantial difference in costs between agrivoltaics and ground-mounted solar results from higher tracker system costs. Agrivoltaic projects also face more system design constraints as they have to deal with subsoil conditions and are strictly dependent on the chosen type of agricultural use.
Furthermore, agrivoltaic project developers may also incur higher costs during the approval process. These include the identification of the location, soil and environmental reports, development plans, and legal fees of different kinds. Ground preparation, however, may be a factor that increases costs for conventional solar parks, as these require groundworks that are usually avoided in agrivoltaic projects. When these must be implemented, however, costs may be much higher for the latter. For example, cables must be laid at a safe depth of at least one meter in order to ensure trouble-free agricultural activity.
Agrivoltaic plants are commonly built with special modules, bifacial panels or products with a higher degree of transparency, which results, along with the mounting systems, in higher costs. “The costs of the other components, such as cables, inverters and transformer stations, however, do not differ between the two project typologies,” the researchers stated, adding that the costs of the plant grid-connection, the assembly of the components, or the monitoring system are almost the same.
Vertically erected agrivoltaic projects are usually built with bifacial panels with a high degree of bifaciality and a west-east orientation. The additional costs of these panels, however, do not justify the disproportionately higher costs, the authors of the report stated. Yet the required special mounting structures are not produced on a mass scale, which also increase a project's costs, they add. The increase in costs is estimated from €220 to €250/kW for the modules and from €75 to up to €200/kW for the racks.
For agrivoltaic systems installed at a high distance from the ground, which is necessary to let the agricultural machinery operate under the solar panels, the costs are even higher compared to conventional solar plants. The scientists estimated a total cost of €400/kW for the entire plant construction including the foundations. Mounting systems are expected to cost between €130 and €220/kW, while the cost of highly transparent modules may rise to up to €330/kW. Site preparation and component deployment costs between €250 to €350/kW.
Agrivoltaic installations relying on trackers may be much more expensive, as the tracking system may have to be placed at a height of up to six meters. In this regard, the report cites a project in Germany that had a total cost of €850/kW. “The costs for the elevation depend on the desired application and on the height of the structure,” the researchers explained.
For cost estimation, the German group took as a reference project an 850 kW ground-mounted plant with an average total cost of €572/kW and a required investment of €486,200/hectare. The estimated costs for a vertical agrivoltaic project with a capacity of 345.8 kW is €688/kW and the required investment is €237,760/hectare. For an agrivoltaic system with elevated module and a capacity of 650 kW, the total cost was estimated at €1,234/kW and the total investment at €802,100/hectare.
In another report published by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of agrivoltaic projects with a 20-year term located in Germany was estimated at between €0.07 and €0.12 per kWh for an average value of €0.093 per kWh.
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