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Iberdrola launches agrovoltaics start-up challenge
TIME£º2021-05-17    VIEWNUM£º398    SOURCE£ºPower Engineering International

By Power Engineering International-May 14, 2021

Image credit: Iberdrola

Iberdrola group, through its International Startup Programme PERSEO, is seeking low-cost and environmentally-friendly solutions enabling the roll-out of solar PV projects that facilitate coexistence with rural activities, such as agriculture, horticulture or fish farming.

Through this contest, Iberdrola aims to identify innovative solutions that allow primary sector activities and solar photovoltaic facilities to complement each other and create synergies on the same land, promoting the local economy, whilst at the same time continuing to fight climate change and support the energy transition.

Agrivoltaics makes use of photovoltaic modules, which are mounted on a structure, to generate renewable electricity while, for example, agricultural crops grow underneath the modules. The approach increases land efficiency and could mitigate conflicts over the use of arable land in the future.

The technological proposals must explore the combination of solar photovoltaic generation with one of the following complimentary land uses:

Agriculture/Horticulture: combining different crops with the production of photovoltaic energy

Livestock: combining different livestock-rearing activities with the production of photovoltaic energy

Fish farming: integrating the production of photovoltaic energy into fish farming

Bee-keeping or other methods of pollination
The proposals and solutions will be analysed by specialists from Iberdrola¡¯s Renewables Business Unit. Among others, they could include:

Solutions that contribute towards improving or optimising the productivity of the land, minimising the potential penalty for electricity production;

Solutions that lead to better water management, temperature optimisation, heat and refrigeration supply for facilities and processes, etc;

Solutions offering competitive investment costs compared to conventional photovoltaic solutions;
Solutions focusing on minimising the operating and maintenance costs of photovoltaic plants as well as the costs for the complementary land use;

Remotely operated solutions and ones that allow for totally autonomous management.

The evaluation of these proposals will take into account aspects such as operating and investment costs, minimisation of environmental impact, simplicity of installation and positive impact on sustainability.

The winners of the challenge will sign a collaboration agreement with Iberdrola for the development of a proof-of-concept with PERSEO or any other relevant Iberdrola group company, who will assume the costs and provide the necessary technical support, giving access to infrastructures and real data to test the solution.

Iberdrola may offer the participant the opportunity to scale up the solution by means of commercial agreements and PERSEO may consider investing in the participant and/or challenge winner.

Find out how you can participate in the challenge.

Agrivoltaics gaining ground

Countries around the world are catching onto this idea especially in areas where space is limited and solar power is a primary source of emissions free power generation. 

Some projects advancing dual-use solar include the 4.2MW, 10 acre, Rockport project in Rockport, Maine installed above an active blueberry farm, Enel Green Power¡¯s Aurora solar farm in Minnesota, as well as several research pilots by German research organisation Fraunhofer ISE.

Chad Higgins, associate professor in the Biological and Ecological Engineering Department at Oregon State University, said:¡°We all need food and we all need energy to power the work we do ¡ª not to mention personal or home needs.Eventually, I see Agrivoltaic systems growing food and producing energy on the same land, using the energy we produce on the farm to power the electrical farm tractors and other equipment needed by the operation, power the pumps for irrigation, power the production of fertilizers needed to feed the crops, power the greenhouses, and on and on. The opportunities will be endless.¡±