Agrovoltaic, photovoltaics to produce energy without “stealing” arable land. Here’s how it works

The energy crisis is hitting all over the world, and the most important international energy management bodies are in agreement on what the solution can be: to free oneself from the crazy market fluctuations, increasing the share of energy from renewable sources.

The photovoltaic it is certainly one of the best known methods, but when not applied to the roofs of buildings it has always been criticized. Both for a visual impact, not always appreciated, but also and above all for the subtraction of potentially arable land, used instead for the installation of thousands of solar panels. Recently, however, a new type of photovoltaic field has taken hold, and has proved its worth. It is what is called Agrovoltaico, or APV according to the Anglo-Saxon acronym.

Not all plants love a lot of light

This particular solution always uses panels anchored to the ground, but slightly raised. Thanks to this measure, the height is sufficient for planting different types of fruit or vegetable trees. At the same time the panels become like a sort of protective canopy, and can in some cases be assembled with shapes that recall the typical greenhouse tunnels, which protect the plants from bad weather and excessive heat.

But how to properly grow plants, if they are placed in the shade? The secret is to select the right type of crops, favoring plants that they don’t like too much direct exposure to the sun. This is because all plants have a threshold beyond which they are no longer able to convert the light received into matter, and when they exceed this limit they must respond by increasing the evaporation of water, to dissipate excess energy. Partial light protection cancels this factor, ensuring good growth and water saving, as plants hardly ever go into forced evaporation.

Special photovoltaic panels

Looking at common photovoltaic panels, however, it would seem that they do not let enough light through. For this reason, after some field tests, special panels have been developed in which the spacing between the photovoltaic cells is greater, leaving large sections transparent and accessible to the light: a perfect balance between lighting and protection.

Agrovoltaics is therefore an optimal solution, which nevertheless struggles to establish itself. The crops in the shade of the panels hardly go down under the80% yield (when compared to a field in full light), a loss that the farmer can compensate with the production of electricity, for himself or for the grid. But in a normal situation, why would a landowner decide to have two things to manage, in partial service, rather than one or the other?

The institute took care of this question Fraunhofer, always at the forefront of photovoltaic projects, which has drawn up a few simple rules for the spread of agrovoltaics:

  • national incentives must push farmers towards this solution, lowering installation costs
  • the plant, as well as the cultivation, must be owned by the farmer
  • the involvement of the community and the local production of vegetables serves to avoid the unjustified refusal of the plants by authorities and citizens

All these details, explanations and rules have been perfectly summarized in a video from the YouTube channel “Undecided with Matt Ferrell“, which we publish below. It is a short video, in English but with the possibility of activating automatic subtitles in Italian:

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