Agri-Photovoltaics: pilot project with vertical solar modules in Lower Saxony, Germany


Pilot project to clarify open questions

A demonstration and research solar power plant is planned with vertically oriented solar panels instead of the conventional tilted installation. This project is located in Dörverden, and it receives financial support from the Department of Environment of the federal state of Lower Saxony. The vertical orientation of the solar panels makes it possible to generate solar power and further use the field for arable and vegetable cultivation. Approximately 575 bi-facial modules of vertical design will be installed on one hectare of farmland. These modules can receive light and radiation on both sides and will be mounted in an east-west orientation. They will generate a total output of approximately 230 kilowatt-peak (kWp). The planned use of GPS-assisted agricultural machinery will enable precise and safe management between the modules.

The pilot project is intended to answer important questions until this combined type of arable land use could be used nationwide in Germany. In particular, this pilot project is intended to clarify the effects of shading on arable and vegetable farming, but also on the modules. The project also aims to clarify how irrigation becomes possible during dry periods or which insects settle in the strips between the modules. To ensure that the results are valid, the project is scheduled to run for five years. The financial volume of the project is around €510,000 for plant construction and accompanying research. The vertical rows of modules are spaced approximately ten to twelve meters apart, which allows for cultivation between them. In order to obtain reference values as to whether the agricultural yield is disturbed by the experimental arrangement, the installation of the module rows leaves sufficient gaps for conventional cultivation.

The use of GPS-assisted farm machinery ensures precise and safe cultivation between modules without destroying the sensitive modules. Organic farming is planned using a classic crop rotation of clover grass, potatoes, carrots, root crops or legumes such as field beans. The field strip between the modules could also be used to grow asparagus and berries to gain experience with these typically Lower Saxon permanent crops on the trial field.

Less land loss

Farmers in Lower Saxony and throughout Germany should be able to benefit from this pilot project. The agricultural cooperative that owns the land is responsible for building and operating the solar panel system and conducting the arable trials. This model project opens up new economic perspectives for farmers and can represent a milestone for the ecologically optimized use of agricultural land. The previous loss of land through the use of fertile arable soils by solar parks with conventional tilted modules could soon be a thing of the past. The pilot project shows ways of resolving the conflict of use between land for the production of food and land for the supply of energy with renewable energy.