As part of the Model Region Agri-photovoltaics for Baden-Württemberg research project, a third LVWO pilot plant has been commissioned at the Heuchlingen Experimental Fruit Farm in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
By combining electricity production with berry cultivation, farmers increasingly use protection systems against cold, rain, hail and excessive solar radiation. Pests are kept away using nets. According to the Ministry of Food, Rural Affairs and Consumer Protection of Baden-Württemberg, installing solar modules can produce sustainable synergistic effects.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems reports that the Heuchlingen farm’s agricultural electricity system has a capacity of 113 kW. Researchers are investigating the plant’s effects on the cultivation of raspberries, blueberries, currants, strawberries, gooseberries and blackberries in an area of almost 2,000 square meters. In order to study farming techniques that save natural resources, the facility has completely closed water and nutrient circuits.
“Rainwater is collected, stored and used with fresh water for irrigation,” said Oliver Hörnle, project manager at Fraunhofer ISE. “Excess liquid from the growing medium of the berries is collected, treated with the help of a solar-powered system and also reused.”
As part of the research project, LVWO, Fraunhofer ISE and 11 other project partners are building and testing a total of five agricultural solar pilot systems in Baden-Württemberg. The researchers aim to gain experience and knowledge for the practical implementation of solar photovoltaic systems in agriculture, explore innovative approaches, clarify the legal framework and bring the technology to practical use.
At the same time, in Austria, RWA Solar Solutions and Frutura are testing the combination of solar electricity and apple cultivation in the Pöchlarn eco-solar biotope.
In the project’s 4.1 MW system, researchers are actively testing several different variations of agrovoltaic. Frutura has about 300 apple trees in a test area of about 900 square meters. In addition, a reference area of about 640 square meters is monitored, with 200 trees protected by a netting instead of solar modules. According to Frutura, the preliminary results are positive: the unique microclimate under the photovoltaic system enhances the growth of trees and accelerates the development of vegetation. However, continuous use of the drip irrigation system is necessary for rainwater protection.
This year, Frutura aims to investigate the effects of the solar power system on the behavior of beneficial insects and pests, as well as flower bud formation, fruit size and grain protection.