"Installing solar panels above crops reduces evapotranspiration and limits the temperature during heat peaks. Photovoltaic panels can be an ally of farmers by limiting the effects of climate change on crops, enhancing the attractiveness of agricultural jobs, and providing additional income."
Active since 2016 in this sector, BayWa r.e. operates 15 such installations in Europe with semi-transparent panel technology adapted to each crop (raspberries, blueberries, apples...).
Producers are increasingly interested in agrivoltaic solutions
Many producers used to be skeptical, but agrivoltaics is now becoming more and more attractive, according to Marike Brézillon-Millet, agrivoltaics manager at BayWa r.e.. "At first, many people imagined that the first photovoltaic greenhouses would reduce yields significantly. But what BayWa r.e. offers are open-air shades with semi-transparent panels that allow much more light to pass through, thus enhancing agricultural production."
The many weather hazards that have affected crops in recent years have also changed the situation. "The year 2022 clearly marked a turning point with the damage caused by frost, hail, and drought. The IPCC report, which predicts less rain and higher temperatures, also contributes to a more global awareness and sensitization. This is what we observed at medFEL. Producers were very interested in our solutions both in terms of crop protection and water savings." According to Marike, "The idea is not to install them everywhere and cover the fields with panels. In order to reach the French government's objectives, only 1 to 2% of the French agricultural surfaces need to be equipped."
Secondary energy production
Agrivoltaics combines primary agricultural production with secondary energy production on the same surface area. An agrivoltaic project is specific to each farm and has the ultimate goal of improving the resilience of the farm.
Agrivoltaic systems help protect crops from climate hazards (mechanical protection against hail and reduced heat stress), and save water and inputs (reduced evapotranspiration by about 25% and better ventilation and reduced risk of disease compared to crops grown in plastic tunnels). They also reduce production costs (savings in plastic and work time and no additional investment by farmers), facilitate harvesting (improved working conditions with protection against bad weather and high temperatures), and they produce green and local energy.
The agrivoltaic technology of BayWa r.e. is based on an adaptable system of semi-transparent double-glazed panels that allow enough light to pass through according to the needs of the plants.
Growing interest from fruit growers
Thanks to its 9 agencies, BayWa r.e. is present throughout France. The demands vary depending on the region. "In the New Aquitaine area, for example, we are very much in demand for vineyards because the growers are experiencing a lot of difficulties." But the other rising sector is arboriculture. This trend was confirmed in Perpignan during the two days of medFEL.
"Today, fruit growers need to be presented with viable solutions to drought and water shortages. The advantage of our structures is that they also serve as a support by replacing the trellis. We can hang nets on them and add water collection gutters. Finally, they allow significant savings because we take care of the entire installation."
Looking for partners for all types of projects
BayWa r.e. is looking for partners among wine growers, fruit growers (apples, pears, cherries, plums, kiwis, hazelnuts...), and soft fruit growers (raspberries, redcurrants, blueberries, strawberries…) who would like to equip five to several dozen hectares of their farms with photovoltaic shading. Pilot projects (demonstrators) can be planned for species not yet equipped by BayWa r.e..
BayWa r.e. has been developing agrivoltaic projects since 2016 and currently operates 15 agrivoltaic installations, including 9 semi-transparent module installations, totaling nearly 6 MWp.