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Fraunhofer ISE | Agri-Solar | Landwirtschaft

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Will farmers become the oil sheikhs of the 21st century?

The rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (1912 bis 1977) said at the end of his life: “If we don’t use the sun in the 21st century, we will be making a big mistake.”

Even the head of BP Solar Europe, a subsidiary of the oil company BP, Michael Pitcher, predicted “a great future for solar energy” back in July 1998: “The 21st century will be the century of solar energy.” At that time, photovoltaic systems achieved efficiencies of around 12 per cent; today they achieve efficiencies of 22 to 24 per cent. Far higher efficiencies can be achieved in the future. The efficiency of a PV system describes the percentage of solar energy falling on the cells that is converted into electricity. The higher the efficiency, the faster the financial amortisation of a system.

The climate crisis is the greatest threat to security in the 21st century. It threatens the stability of states and the international order. I hear this again and again – mainly in developing countries. And this is true worldwide: for the Fiji Islands as well as for California, for South Africa as well as for Greenland, for Bangladesh, which has 170 million inhabitants and is on average only three metres above sea level, as well as for dozens of cities with millions of inhabitants that are located directly by the sea.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is also responsible for international climate policy: “Climate policy is geopolitics. And geopolitics is climate policy,” she said during a visit to the endangered Fiji Islands. Farmers can also make a significant contribution to the energy transition.

The sun belongs to everyone. It cannot be monopolised. Fortunately for us, there is no RWE sun, no Eon sun, no Aral sun and no Shell sun. And no Putin sun. The sun also belongs to the farmers.
Agriculture or renewable energies

In the past, this was an either-or question. Today, however, Agri-PV is an innovative application that offers promising opportunities for agriculture and climate protection. It promises to combine agricultural production and renewable electricity generation on the same land.

A study by the University of Göttingen and the Fraunhofer Institute confirms this: A majority of farms in Germany are open to the concept of agri-PV. According to the study, farmers can well imagine utilising the technology in the near future. Agri-photovoltaic systems are also subsidised by the state in France, Austria and the Netherlands.

The advantages are obvious: the systems offer protection against storm, hail, frost and drought damage. They lead to lower electricity generation costs than smaller roof systems and they increase the income of farmers. Shading and wind protection lead to less evaporation. Agri-photovoltaics enable the combination of traditional agriculture on the ground and a solar gain on the “second floor” above the ground.

Pilot projects for two-storey agriculture are now being launched throughout Europe, as well as in sunny Africa. In Sicily, the largest system in Europe is already in operation, with rows of modules between which figs and olives thrive. Farmers can also become energy farmers – perhaps even “the oil sheikhs of the 21st century”?

Farmers can make an important contribution to the energy transition through biogas plants and agrivoltaic systems.


Franz Alt 2024 | Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator 

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