Smart land use: solar power and farming combined

Source: press release, 5 September 2019

Vattenfall to investigate how to combine agricultural land and solar panels
Vattenfall to investigate how to combine agricultural land and solar panels (photo: Vattenfall)

Could farming and solar energy be combined to use valuable land twice? Vattenfall wants to investigate the important issue and is looking for collaboration with knowledge institutions to test this in practice.

In addition to the realisation of solar panels on roofs of its customers, Vattenfall develops large solar park projects, primarily in The Netherlands. Now Vattenfall wants to investigate how to combine agricultural land and solar panels.

“We regularly hear from farmers, politicians and nature organisations that they think it is a shame to use agricultural land for solar parks. By investigating whether we can also combine solar parks with agriculture, we want to increase the acceptance of our solar parks in the area,” says Margit Deimel, Director of Large-scale Sun at Vattenfall.

Vattenfall first wants to investigate the feasibility of the concept. The effect on crops is examined and the technical consequences are mapped. By making double use of the scarce agricultural land in the Netherlands, the yield of each plot can increase significantly.

“From 100% yield from only agriculture or only solar panels on a plot, we expect the turnover to be 160% when both options are combined. The plot then supplies agricultural crops and sustainable energy,” she says. “We want to work at different locations in order to find out what the optimal design is for such a solar park and what the optimal operating model is. For example, sufficient light must fall on the solar panels to generate energy, but also on the ground below so that crops can grow. The crops also need sufficient water, and this must be provided. Of course, we are not farmers, so we have to look for the right parties to use each other’s knowledge.”

Anything could potentially grow under the solar panels, but Vattenfall will focus on crops that do not grow too high.

“So most probably no corn, asparagus or bamboo. Think instead of crops such as cabbages, onions, potatoes, carrots or soft fruit,” says Deimel.

By Anouk IJfs