- Agri-Photovoltaics

Frequently asked questions

Agrivoltaics or Agri-PV is a method of generating solar energy while still enabling farmers to produce food or feed on the same farmland. This still young form of renewable energy production eliminates the increasing competition for land between agriculture and the energy industry. It therefore makes an important contribution to greater climate protection and food security. At the same time, Agri-PV strengthens farmers by offering them additional income opportunities through the generation of green electricity.

But this double harvest is not the only advantage: the partial roofing of the crops offers better protection against excessive heat, heavy rain, hail and frost. Especially in the case of sensitive crops such as berries, this additional protection is remarkable in the face of climate change, while many other crops have even seen increased yields.

Valuable arable land always remains agricultural land with Agri-PV, while generating a second return in the form of electricity at the same time. This is the crucial difference to a ground-mounted PV, which does not allow dual use since no more agriculture can be carried out underneath. Another distinguishing feature is that the land does not have to be redesignated as commercial land. This facilitates permits and also offers tax advantages. Agri-PV thus represents an important component for the planned expansion of photovoltaics by 80 percent in Germany in the coming years, as the available land for classic ground-mounted PV is already becoming scarce.

Put simply, by keeping growing conditions constant. For example, the partial roofing by the modules alleviates the consequences of the increasing heavy rain events. Instead, rainwater can be collected in a targeted manner and stored in tanks for later application. Targeted irrigation management also helps to reduce the use of plant protection products and thus costs.

On the other hand, the number of consecutive dry days and thus prolonged periods of drought is increasing, especially in summer. According to data from the German Weather Service, the number of days with low soil moisture has already increased significantly since 1961. By better protecting the soil from drying out, a better microclimate results, which promotes plant development overall. The partial roofing also helps to minimise frost or hail damage, which is interesting with regard to sensitive crops such as in fruit growing.

Farmers should ensure need for food as optimally as possible, while at the same time we want to generate green electricity. By enabling both on the same area, our agri-photovoltaic systems can produce more food, not less. Simply because less land is lost to energy production. 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.

The plants are never completely covered, so the yield can basically be controlled by the degree of shading. Due to the high potential offered by agri-photovoltaics, many studies are being conducted worldwide in order to be able to make long-term statements. In Germany, for example, the Frauenhofer Institute is researching this field, with whom we are in close contact.

Bifacial, i.e. translucent glass-glass modules, like the ones we use, have proven particularly effective for homogeneous light management and high energy output. With shade-tolerant plants such as potatoes or spinach, an increase in yield has been observed. Sensitive fruit crops also get along well with agri-photovoltaics, which also protects the harvest from heat damage and other extreme weather events, which are now occurring more and more frequently in our country.

The concept of our Agri-Photovoltaic system types was developed in close consultation with farmers and machinery rings. While a span of 12 metres was chosen for our first pilot system, experience has shown that this span is only sufficient for small farms. Therefore, in the new version, we have opted for a clearance width of 18 metres and a clearance height of 6 metres. This allows the use of most conventional large agricultural equipment.

With our agri-photovoltaic systems we do not seal the ground, because we use a patented technique: the spider 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 has benefits for biodiversity as well, because we can compensate a large part of these areas by planting flowering strips.

We support the consistent expansion of solar technology. That means we also support the consistent expansion of roof surfaces with solar technology. The German government wants to expand photovoltaics by 80 percent to 200 gigawatts by 2030. Not every roof is suitable for solar expansion, just as not every agricultural area is suitable for agri-photovoltaics. Therefore, a mix of all solar options is needed. AgroSolar Europe has specialised in the field of agri-photovoltaics in order to contribute to the energy transition.

AgroSolar Europe focuses on Agri-Photovoltaics and we experience how much knowledge is needed for the combination of agriculture and solar energy. and solar energy technology we focus on that. However, our systems can also cover car parks. This is done by our partner Hilber Solar with 30 years of experience in the 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.

Our designs have proven themselves even under heavy loads. Because even here in Central Europe, the winter storms are becoming more severe. In recent years, this has caused great damage to forestry and agriculture. How stable and the concepts and designs of our Agri-PV are became clear in the 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 facility 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. The patented spider anchor system ensures a strong hold in the ground even without concrete foundations in the field and can be removed without leaving any residue when the system is dismantled. You can find detailed information under Products.

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. But the area never lost its arable status during the lease period, as it was used for agriculture throughout.

According to German law, land with PV systems leased by farmers is usually regarded as part of the real estate. Anyone who wants to lease out land for an agri photovoltaic system (Agri PV) can claim different tax rules for inheritance, gift and property tax. For Agri-PV the following applies: Areas with Agri-PV of the category I or II according to DIN SPEC 91434 belong to agricultural and forestry assets.

Agri-photovoltaics are systems with the following characteristics, among others:

  • Agricultural production as main use
  • Electricity production via PV system as secondary use
  • Yield of the crops after the construction of the Agri-PV system equals at least 66 % of the reference yield
  • for Agri-PV systems of category I: elevation at clear height (min. 2.10 m) and agricultural cultivation under the system
  • for category II Agri-PV systems: ground-level elevation and agricultural cultivation between the rows of systems.
  • The loss of usable agricultural land due to superstructures and substructures must not exceed a maximum of 10 % and for category II max. 15 %.

If you as a farmer lease your field for a solar park, you will have a problem with inheritance tax. We use an example case to recreate this situation. If you live in Upper Bavaria and a farm heir takes over a field of 20 hectares on which he grows grain, you do not have to pay inheritance tax. The acre would be valued at 141,000 euros, which is below the tax-free amount.

What does the scenario look like for a ground-mounted solar system?

However, if he leased these 20 hectares to a solar park operator, the same field would be worth 3.2 million euros in the eyes of the tax office. After deducting the tax-free amount of 400,000 euros, you as a farmer would have to pay 531,000 euros in inheritance tax. This would mean that all income from the lease would be lost again by the solar park operator.

This case is certainly no exception, because with a usual lease term of 20 to 30 years, it is very likely that your farm will be passed on to the next generation at some point during this period.

What is the scenario for an agri-PV system ?

Here, the structure of the lease is the same as for a ground-mounted system. However, the area never loses its arable status during the lease period, the area is not converted as it is used for agricultural purposes during the entire period. Thus, the 20 hectares continue to be valued at 141,000 euros as arable land, which is below the allowances. Thus, no inheritance taxes are due.

This consideration remains independent of the question of whether we can afford today to continue to lose arable land on this scale for agriculture/food, and whether it is at all possible after 30 years to convert an industrial area for energy – which is what the area is after the B-plan change – back to arable status for agriculture.

So why change everything when you can have both?