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Agrivoltaics is considered a viable solution when addressing the challenges of sustainable food production and renewable energy generation as it enables the dual use of the arable land.

In the era of climate change, crop cultivation is becoming increasingly demanding due to unexpected and extreme weather changes, making the benefits of presence of panels over the crops even more important.

Agrivoltaic systems can leverage a microclimate created by vegetation beneath solar panels. Crops reduce temperatures through transpiration and shading, potentially enhancing PV module efficiency. Additionally, this approach minimizes potential land-use conflicts, allowing farmers to generate energy on the same land used for agriculture, thereby reducing competition for land resources.

At Greenvolt Power, our unwavering commitment to biodiversity is at the heart of our mission. In our Biodiversity Strategy we committed to promote partnerships to develop biodiversity management, conservation and restoration projects by 2030. Through collaborations with key stakeholders—local authorities, scientists, universities, NGOs, and local communities—we actively contribute to the realization of this Strategy.

An exemplary manifestation of this commitment is our current partnership with Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) to reintroduce agricultural land use on an operating photovoltaic farm. This initiative not only aligns with our Biodiversity Strategy but also demonstrates our dedication to innovative solutions and continuous learning, with the ultimate goal of optimizing benefits for both agriculture and solar energy generation.

As we are responsible for renewable projects in development, construction and operational phase of, we are not solely focused on innovating system designs for our new projects in development, but also on efficient asset management.

Therefore, we are seeking smart and simple solutions to enable dual land use on our operating PV farms without interfering with the existing infrastructure.

This can be achieved by optimizing crop choices and management practices on operating PV farms. One of our goals has been to assess the potential of individual plant species for cultivation on photovoltaic farms.

After nearly a year of field research conducted in cooperation with WULS Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture, we have obtained the first results of our research.

Second year will be crucial in terms of collecting data and drawing final conclusions but even after such a short time of observations, we can see that:

The shading effect of panels has a definitively positive influence on crops;
specific species do have the potential to be effectively cultivated on a solar farm;
It is possible to reintroduce agricultural land use on an operating photovoltaic farm without significant financial outlays;

In the upcoming year of our research, our plan involves evaluating the potential of specific plant species to improve the productivity of  PV installations. We aim to achieve this by studying their positive effects on the microclimate and by increasing the albedo of the area beneath the photovoltaic panels.

We have been living in the world of diminishing resources and I personally view agrivoltaics as a promising strategy that will allow us to face the interconnected challenges of sustainable food cultivation and the generation of renewable energy.

Having said that, we are still in the preliminary stage of introducing and popularizing agrivoltaics, even though according to SolarPower Europe, if agrivoltaics was introduced on just 1% of Europe’s arable land, its technical capacity would amount to more than 900GW, more than six times the current installed PV capacity in the whole of the EU. The fact that we are still at the beginning of the road stems from several reasons.

First, there is a need for continuous research to be carried out, so we can collect data that will allow us to make informed decisions and spread awareness. Secondly, there is still no legislation in place to support the development of agrivoltaics in Poland. Needless to say – without it, we won’t be able to take next steps. Finally, agrivoltaics requires technology that will fully take advantage of its potential, which boils down to savy and precise crop cultivation and sustainable agriculture. This will not be possible without the support and participation of farmers. The RE industry needs to prioritise collaboration that aims for educating crop producers and sharing best practices of how solar and farming can go hand in hand, benefitting not only the renewable energy sector and food production sector, but most importantly the communities and the environment.

Article written by: Sylwia Jaruga-Białaś, Environmental and Biodiversity Expert at Greenvolt Power

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