Frequently asked questions
Agri-Photovoltaic or agrivoltaic is an agricultural management system that supports agriculture as its main use while generating electricity from solar energy. The focus remains on the production of food or feed. This still young form of renewable energy production cancels out the increasing competition for land between agriculture and the energy industry. It thus makes an important contribution to greater climate protection and food security. At the same time, agrivoltaic strengthens farmers by providing them with an additional income opportunity through the generation of green electricity. A double harvest, in other words, which also has another important benefit: the partial roofing of the crops means that the harvest is better protected from excessive heat, heavy rain, hail and frost. Particularly in the case of sensitive crops such as berries, this additional protection is noticeable in view of climate change, while many other crops have even been able to generate an additional yield.
If a classic ground-mounted photovoltaic system is built, this area is no longer available for agriculture. Energy generation is therefore the only goal here. This is different from agri-photovoltaics (agrivoltaics): Here, agricultural cultivation remains the main use – and energy is also generated. This dual use of land solves the problem of land competition: farmers no longer have to decide whether to use their land for cultivation or for solar energy, but can combine the two. From a political perspective, agri-photovoltaics can effectively increase the share of renewable energy in Germany in order to achieve the goal of climate neutrality. At the same time, the agricultural sector is strengthened and food security is sustainably supported. Another distinguishing feature is that it eliminates the need to redesignate land as commercial. This facilitates permits and also offers tax advantages.
The consequences of climate change are also noticeable in Germany: weather extremes such as heat or heavy rain make it difficult to grow food in many places. agri-photovoltaic (agrivoltaics) offers protection against too much wind, heat and solar radiation as well as hail, frost and drought damage through partial roofing or wind-breaking elements with solar modules. In addition, the soils can store a greater amount of water, which can have a positive effect on crop yields, especially for shade crops and in dry regions, reducing the need for irrigation by up to 20 percent or more. In addition, rainwater can be selectively captured and collected in storage tanks for later application. This irrigation management also helps to reduce the use of crop protection products and thus costs.
Farmers should secure our food as optimally as possible, while at the same time we want to generate green electricity. By enabling both on the same land, our agrivoltaic systems mean that less land is lost to energy production, the result is that more food can be produced, not less. As an additional benefit, we protect agriculture from crop failures caused by climate change. This creates a win-win situation between food security and the energy industry.
In Agri-PV, plants are never completely covered, so yield can basically be controlled by the degree of shading. In order to be able to make long-term statements about the potential of agrivoltaics, there are currently many studies worldwide. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the German Aerospace Center, the Helmholtz Center and many others are working on agri-pv. We are always in close exchange with these facilities.
Bifacial, i.e. translucent glass-glass modules, such as those we use, have proved particularly effective for homogeneous light management and high energy yield. In the case of shade-tolerant plants, such as potatoes or spinach, an increase in yield was even observed. Sensitive fruit crops also get along well with agri-photovoltaics, as it also protects the crop from heat damage and other extreme weather events, which are now becoming increasingly common in our country.
The concept of our agri-photovoltaic system was developed in close cooperation with farmers and machine engineers. In the first pilot plant in Heggelbach, the predecessor of the AgroSolar Top, a span of 12 meters was still chosen. However, experience showed that this range was only sufficient for small operations. Therefore, we opted for 18-meter clearance width and 6-meter clearance height for the newer versions. This means that most conventional large agricultural equipment can be used without any problems. In general, we adapt the spacing series to the needs of the farmers. This ranges from 3 meters to extensions with spacing sizes of 24 meters.
With our agrivoltaic systems we do not seal the ground, because we use a patented technology: the spinning anchor. This substructure allows the installation of the system without having to lay concrete foundations in the soil. While 15 percent loss of area is legally permissible for the assembly of the modules, our system concept only requires 8-10 percent thanks to this technology. This is also an advantage for biodiversity, because we can compensate for a large part of these areas with flowering strips.
We support the consistent expansion of solar technology and therefore also advocate the consistent expansion of roof areas with solar installations. However, the German government wants to expand photovoltaics by a total of 80 percent to 200 gigawatts by 2030. Of course, however, not every roof is suitable for solar development, just as not every agricultural land is suitable for agri-photovoltaics. Therefore, a mix of all solar options is needed. AgroSolar Europe has specialized in the topic of agri-photovoltaics in order to be able to contribute its part to the energy transition.
Our designs have proven themselves even under heavy loads. This aspect is important, because even here in Central Europe, winter storms are becoming more violent. Just how stable the concepts and designs of our Agri-PV are became clear during hurricane Zeynep in February 2022: at that time, our first AgroSolar Top system withstood gales with wind speeds of up to 170 km/h without any problems or damage.
This proven quality is no coincidence. All our plant types are designed in accordance with DIN SPEC 91434 and are thus subject to the strict Eurocode 3 standard for the design, calculation and dimensioning of steel structures. Our patented spider anchor system provides a strong hold in the ground even without concrete foundations in the field and can be removed without leaving any residue when the plant is dismantled. You can find detailed information in our product overview.
AgroSolar Europe focuses on agrivoltaics and we experience how much knowledge is needed for the combination of agriculture and solar energy. Therefore, we want to focus on the agricultural sector. However, our systems can also cover car parks. This is done by our shareholder Hilber Solar – a company that already has 30 years of experience in the photovoltaic market.
When it comes to roofing motorways, there are still many safety and practical aspects to consider currently still under investigation. These range from possible vehicle impact scenarios to questions of maintenance or snow clearance. Moreover, from a length of 80 m, the supporting structures would have to be classified similarly to tunnels, which is why the construction would have to meet higher safety requirements, which in turn would make the costs more expensive. But we are also keeping an eye on this with our partner Hilber Solar.
The tenancy agreements for open space PV usually run for a period of 30 years. In many cases, it can be assumed that after the end of the lease period, the area of an open space PV will lose its arable status and grassland conversion will only be possible against compensation.
The lease periods for land for an agri-photovoltaic system are usually identical. However, the land never loses its arable status during the lease period, as it is used for agricultural purposes throughout the period.
Land with PV systems leased by farmers is usually part of the real property. Those who want to lease land for an agri-photovoltaic (agrivoltaic) system can claim different tax rules for inheritance, gift and property taxes.
Are you interested in agri-photovoltaic and have an arable land on which an agrivoltaic system could be located? Then contact us without any obligation. Give us some key data and we will get back to you as soon as possible to answer any questions you may have. In the next step, we check whether an Agri-PV system makes sense on your land and what the next steps would be.
At AgroSolar Europe you cannot buy the agrivoltaic systems. We are building long-term partnerships with farmers. We want to find out together which system makes sense for the respective cultivation and which irrigation or protection systems are necessary. Because every field is individual and so is our plant design. In this way, we assure farmers of the best quality so that, together with you, we can get the best out of the plant and the farmland for years to come. Our service includes individual plant planning and agricultural consulting, grid connection, building applications, construction and finally the operation of the plant, the marketing of the electricity and the maintenance and repair of the plant.
The cost of an agrivoltaic system depends on the specific product, the size of the area being covered, and the integration of irrigation or robotics. Depending on the type of system, different solar modules are also used, which have different degrees of shading, so that the optimal conditions are created for each crop.
There are various federal and state grants that fit the Agri-PV theme. In our cooperation, we look together at which funding sources could be used. As an example, we use the directive for the promotion of energy efficiency and CO2 savings in agriculture and horticulture. CO2 saving investments in the sense of the above-mentioned guideline are investments that lead to reduced consumption of fossil energy purchases or fossil energy sources in primary agricultural production. Eligible to apply, regardless of the legal form chosen, are SMEs, i.e. companies and farmers producing primary agricultural products.
Agri-PV can have a supporting role for biodiversity and species diversity. Due to the additional shading of the area, the water can be kept in the soil better, as it does not evaporate as quickly. Factors such as soil health, humus buildup, irrigation and compensation areas are all considered when planning a plant. Thus, we promote healthier soils and thus the habitat of microorganisms. In addition, we strongly consider the issue of biodiversity in environmental planning, including compensatory measures.
Depending on the agrivoltaic system and the crop, there are different concepts of water management. Water management has become increasingly important in recent years: the 2019 Climate Report for Lower Saxony assumes that the temperature increase from 2021-2050 will be 3.5°C without measures and about 1°C in the climate change scenario. In addition, weather extremes, such as long dry periods followed by heavy rainfall events, increase, limiting the water absorption capacity of soils and leading to high soil erosion. There is a shift of precipitation from the growing season to winter. In the extreme weather conditions, wind or water erosion leads to the removal of the nutrient-rich arable soil, causing the increased nutrient loads to the water bodies. In addition, increasing evaporation ensures that the surplus of the climatic water balance will decrease by two thirds in the year, and at the same time the water deficit will double in summer.
All of this has led us to actively consider and incorporate water management from the very beginning of the planning of our first agri-photovoltaic systems.
Water management in agrivoltaic in various forms, from water collection to application, enables more efficient use of water resources by agriculture. In this way, it actively contributes to improving the future prospects of the agricultural and food sectors in terms of competitiveness and sustainable use of resources.
In order for agrivoltaics to become more and more effective and better, we must also constantly keep an eye on potential drawbacks and challenges. These can be the following depending on the plant species and area:
However, we do not see these factors as a disadvantage, but rather as a challenge. For this reason, we are involved in many research projects on agrivoltaic in order to always be able to adapt our projects to the conditions in the best possible way.