Industry pushes for ‘agricentricity’ at Agrivoltaics2023


Solar developers, research centers, and other stakeholders say that agrivoltaic projects have to grant a central role for agricultural production in agrivoltaic configurations. This is the main takeaway from the first day of the Agrivoltaics2023 conference, which is taking place this week in Strasbourg, France.

“We have to work on sustainable business cases: we are at a very early age, and there is a lot to work on that, but we cannot question the centrality of agricultural production,” said Emilien Simonot, head of agrivoltaics EMEA & APAC at Lightsource bp.

Panelists such as Max Trommsdorff, head of group agrivoltaics at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE), echoed similar sentiments.

“We need a mindset change, from optimising energy production to accommodating the needs of farmers,” said Guillaume Biree, head of sales for France and Benelux at Schletter Group.

Celeste Mellone, a lawyer at Green Horse Advisory, said energy companies need to have viable business cases and projects must be financially sound. Green Horse Advisory is the co-founder of AIAS, the Italian association for sustainable agriculture. AIAS signed an agreement with France Agrivoltaïsme, and Germany’s VnAP at the conference this week. They plan to collaborate and pull together their members.

“By combining our strengths and expertise, we aim to amplify our impact, bringing about positive change and innovation in the agrivoltaics landscape across Italy, France, and Germany,” they said in a joint statement.

The agricultural world, aligned with the energy sector at the European level, issued a warning about the need to consider biodiversity. Industry figures noted potential discord at the national level in various EU member states.

Theresa Kärtner, a renewable energy adviser at the German Farmers Association (DBV), said that energy production is a third priority for some agrivoltaic projects.

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“In this case, the priority should be given to agricultural production, then to biodiversity, and finally to energy,” said Kärtner.

The second most sensitive topic in agrivoltaic projects, following electricity production, revolves around limitations and constraints, potentially at the national level. These constraints may involve a maximum land utilization rate or minimum agricultural productivity.

Advocates argue that constraints can drive innovation, while opponents believe they could impede progress toward 2030 and 2050 targets. SolarPower Europe said that agrivoltaics play a crucial role in achieving ambitious energy and climate goals.

“In Germany, we have to install 20 GW every year, of which 10 GW are on rooftops and 10 GW on land. Of these, in the future, 3 GW will be dual-use land, with agricultural activity,” said Stephan Schindele, head of product management agriPV at BayWa r.e. “The integration will be even more important.”

Schindele said “agrivoltaics” is a relatively new term and needs cross-sectorial coordination.

“We are in the learning process. AgriPV is feasible,” he said. “The challenges are mostly related to the communication. It is not a production challenge; it is rather a legal one.”

The communication challenge requires better coordination between farmers and electricity producers, particularly in arable agriculture. Germany sets an example, as the DBV agricultural association works on a document to outline the required legal measures for implementing biodiversity PV.

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