Agriculture and solar power set to combine in Netherlands-based pilot project
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Swedish energy company Vattenfall has been granted a permit to build a project in the Netherlands that plans to combine solar power with agriculture, in the latest example of how renewables and agriculture can potentially grow. nest with each other.
In a statement earlier this week, Annemarie Schouten, Vattenfall’s solar development manager for the Netherlands, explained how the project “would alternate rows of panels with strips where various crops are grown for organic farming.”
The pilot, known as Symbizon, is expected to last four years and be located in Almere, east of Amsterdam. Funding comes from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Schouten said double-sided solar panels would be used to ensure “sufficient light output”. Such a configuration would also allow the panels to “capture light reflected from the soil, crops and adjacent rows and use it to generate solar energy.”
Although the plans have taken a step forward, Vattenfall has yet to confirm whether the project will actually progress. A decision on this subject is expected by the end of 2021. If it gets the green light, construction work will begin in 2022.
A wide range of stakeholders should be involved if the program is to be fully realized. These include the independent research organization TNO, which would develop a “solar tracking algorithm” to track energy and crop yields, among others.
The idea of deploying solar panels on farmland has been around for many years. One of these components is called agrivoltaics, which is also known as agrophotovoltaics.
According to the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Power Systems ISE, agro-voltaics “enables dual use of land for harvesting agriculture and solar power”.
The idea behind the concept dates back to the early 1980s and is attributed to Adolf Goetzberger, founder of Fraunhofer ISE, and his colleague Armin Zastrow.
According to the Institute, agrivoltaic facilities have grown from around 5 megawatts in 2012 to around 2.9 gigawatts in 2018.
Solar panels can also be used to help people working in agriculture in their daily activities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, for example, noted that “solar technologies are becoming a viable option for small and large farmers”.
In 2020, CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy” reported how Zimbabwe-based farmer Cheneso Ndlovu was using solar technology to help her grow her produce.
“We garden using a solar borehole for watering,” she said.
“We planted tomatoes on a small plot that we watered and realized that it was thriving, so we decided to grow other vegetables,” she added. “We use the water for other household needs like laundry.”