Pilot project for electrified vegetation maintenance in solar parks receives government funding

Source: press release, 8 February 2022

Husqvarna, Alight and SLU to develop sustainable solutions for vegetation maintenance in solar parks
Husqvarna, Alight and SLU to develop sustainable solutions for vegetation maintenance in solar parks (photo: Husqvarna)

Husqvarna, the pioneer in autonomous lawncare solutions and robotic lawn mowing, has joined forces with solar energy provider Alight and SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in a pilot project that aims to develop sustainable solutions for vegetation maintenance in solar parks, by replacing machines run on fossil fuels with battery driven innovations. The project, which is the first of its kind, has received over 4 million SEK in funding from Vinnova (Sweden’s Innovation Agency). Husqvarna Forest & Garden is a division within Husqvarna Group.

Over the past 25 years, Husqvarna has been an innovation leader in the development of robotic lawn mowers and other electrified solutions for green space management. As part of the pilot project with Alight and SLU, Husqvarna will develop new electric and autonomous solutions for lawncare, to help improve the sustainability of vegetation management in solar parks. The maintenance of vegetation in solar parks is key for efficient energy production, as vegetation shading the panels can lead to production falls.

The aim of the project is to help replace the diesel powered and manually operated mowers that are used in many solar parks today, with solutions that are autonomous and electric. The project further aims to explore how this new technology for lawn care can help boost the production of solar energy as well as promote biodiversity. An important part of this is the creation and validation of appropriate maintenance plans for what zones to mow, when and how often, to set best practice for vegetation management.

“We are excited to participate in this pilot, as it is very much in line with our own ambitions for the coming years – to help our customers make more sustainable choices by offering a broader range of products that are electrified, smart and autonomous. We are excited to test some of our latest innovations in the field next year, together with such knowledgeable partners as Alight and SLU,” says Glen Instone, President Husqvarna Division.

The pilot kicked-off in August 2021 and will run until December 2022 at one of Alight´s solar parks in the South of Sweden. The project´s different phases consist of knowledge building, implementation, execution and evaluation. The implementation of Husqvarna´s autonomous solution for mowing the solar park will happen in the spring 2022. Researchers at SLU will collect data on site during the whole trial period to gather insights linked to biodiversity.

“For a sustainable and fossil free future we need not only a rapid transition to and addition of new renewable energy, but also that the industry applies tech innovations to replace work machines run on fossil fuels with electrified machines. I am very proud to set bold ambitions for green innovation by testing new solutions in partnerships with industry leaders like Husqvarna and having researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences evaluating and qualifying the results. The solar energy industry is growing rapidly, and we hope the results can be applied across the industry to optimise the management of solar parks from both an economic and environmental point of view,” says Harald Överholm, CEO of Alight.

“Within this project we are developing new knowledge in an exciting rapidly growing field together with leading industry partners. We will likely see a continued expansion of solar parks in Sweden and it is therefore important to find ways to manage vegetation at a reasonable cost at the same time as achieving high energy production and sustained ecosystem service provision such as e.g., biodiversity,” says Tobias Emilsson, researcher at SLU.