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AgriPV as a promising citizen participation model

More acceptance and easier financing. The majority of the population would like to see the expansion of renewable energies (RE). This is what the surveys show.

In spite of this approval, there are often problems with implementation, especially at the local level. There, implementation is slowed down by citizens’ initiatives, tough approval processes and lawsuits.

Initial study results and numerous experiences with projects that have already been completed show which factors determine successful implementation. It is important – this much is already clear – to inform the population at an early stage and to involve the regional economy. 

The following article presents a participation model for AgriPV plants that focuses on the needs of the population and involves them extensively in the energy measures.

AgriPV – Yield booster and measure against climate change

AgriPV, the combination of agriculture and photovoltaics, is a megatrend in the rapidly growing photovoltaic market. Climate change makes this market virtually indispensable – driven by the conflict between power generation and agriculture that arises when large ground-mounted power plants are built. 

GridParity is the innovation leader in this market. Ten years ago, the company already built the first plants with semi-transparent modules in the hot climate of Egypt (Cairo and Sinai desert) and developed comprehensive know-how. Extreme climatic conditions are no longer a regionally limited phenomenon. Climate change has also affected Germany, triggering water shortages, heatwaves and severe weather with hail and storms, and leading to serious losses in agriculture.

Highly elevated transparent solar modules can protect against such failures and lead to higher crop yields. In addition, there is the significant value added by the energy produced. The electricity refinances the investment and allows for short payback periods. The federal government and many state governments are currently working on regulations that give exclusive benefits to AgriPV. In Italy, for example, a massive €1.3 billion subsidy program was just released, and in France, a first fund recently announced billion-dollar investments in this market.

All under one sensible roof.  Source: GridParity

Participation – the key to acceptance

A crucial pivotal point for RE in general and AgriPV in particular is the attitude of the population. How do regional economic aspirations, financial participation offers and population acceptance interact? This question was addressed by the Agency for Renewable Energies (AEE), the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and the Institute for Future Energy and Material Flow Systems (IZES). Together they set up the research project “Regional Value Creation, Participation and Acceptance in the Energy Transition” (ReWA). 

The result: By involving municipalities and citizens in RE plants, value creation can be concentrated locally. And the more the value creation remains in the local community, the better the participation of local actors in these value creation steps can be designed. 

It is essential that this connection is also recognized by citizens. Communication therefore plays a central role for local authorities. In order to create and increase acceptance for energy projects, a basic offer of fair participation opportunities for the population in the region is important. 

Focus on target group – factors for a successful participation model

GridParity’s AgriPV program, due to its versatility, enables suitable plant concepts for all agricultural uses, see: www.gridParity.ag/AgriPV

Different models open up possibilities for different forms of participation. Even though the success factors for such participation have not yet been systematically surveyed, there are valuable insights. As a result of a survey of 25 people, who are interested in AgriPV participation models, several factors emerged as crucial:

  • the early communication with detailed information about the process of participation
  • the target-group-related, low-threshold access 
  • the recognizable benefit
  • ongoing information on the development of participation.
A case study – the Beerenglück family park

The case study presented below illustrates the concept for a participation model:

  • for a larger AgriPV solar park (e.g. with 5 mwp capacity)
  • with AgriPV Berry installations
  • on a 6 hectare site
  • investment costs of approx. 6 million euros
  • income from generated electricity of approx. 5.5 mwh per year is to serve as financing.

The concept provides that the surrounding communities as well as commercial enterprises will subscribe to larger shares or conclude PPAs for the generated electricity. A share of 50 to 80 percent of the plant is to be available for this purpose. Even at a relatively low electricity price of only 0.12 euros/kwh, the investment will be refinanced within a good eight years. This does not take into account the not inconsiderable agricultural income from the marketing of the fruit, which goes to the farm as the owner of the land.

Such a concept ensures the basic financing of the investment without external funds.

An additional goal is a broad participation of the citizens. A share sale in small denominations is therefore proposed to the population. Two variants:

1. sponsorship for a defined AgriPV fruit unit (approx. 3x3m in size). This is offered at a reasonable price of 100 to 300 euros per year. As interest vouchers for the purchase of e.g. 10 kg fruit per 100 kg are recommended. This can be collected from the kiosk at the plant.

2. participation in the plant, also divided into units of 3x3m with 6 PV modules and a connected load of 1.8 kwp. For this participation, an interest is deducted from the electricity proceeds, which is simplified in the following table:

The roadmap – realization of an early citizen participation 

After clarifying the technical requirements (grid connection and marketing concept for the electricity) as well as the legal conditions (building permit and utilization concept as a berry plant for self-picking), the population should be involved. An information event as early as possible creates transparency and conveys the possibilities of participation. The concrete advantages for those involved should be communicated in a differentiated and tangible way.

To generate media attention at the same time, it is advisable to give the information occasion the character of a small event. For example, AgriPV racks can be set up and plants placed in containers underneath. Displays and colorful brochures can be used to illustrate the possibilities of AgriPV.

A high level of acceptance on the part of the population requires corresponding financial participation offers. In the municipalities, there was already a clear willingness to participate financially in future RE plants. The interest was even more pronounced when citizens had already participated elsewhere.

Conclusion: A stronger financial participation of the population in the energy transition could be the key to increase the acceptance on the part of the citizens.


AGRI PV | GridParity AG | Germany | Dr. Erich Merkle 2023

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