Under the moderation of Simon Schoon, Project Manager of the Grassland Centre Lower Saxony/Bremen e.V., SUNfarming Managing Director Edith Brasche presented the SUNfarming Agri and Moor PV concepts and solutions for the sustainable agricultural use of grassland and moorland. Helmut Wahl, energy technology consultant at the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture, provided information on the legal and tax framework for agri-PV compared to traditional ground-mounted PV systems. Questions relating to the realisation and approval of corresponding agri-PV and moorland PV solutions were discussed during the open discussion round. During the subsequent visit to Hof Hanken in Elsfleth, farmer Dirk Hanken reported on how well the SUNfarming moorland PV pilot system had been received by his cattle on the moorland grazing area. It is particularly noticeable that the sward under the modules is completely covered with grass.
Lena Weber and Dr Dina Hamidi from the University of Göttingen presented initial scientific findings from animal husbandry under agri-PV on peatland. In the concluding survey, many of the interested visitors stated that they would like to develop specific agri-PV or peatland PV projects on their land and enquired about lease payments and participation models for specific projects from SUNfarming Managing Director Edith Brasche and Project Manager Lower Saxony Thomas Reimers.
All interested parties are also cordially invited to SUNfarming's research and development centre in Rathenow near Berlin, Am Heidefeld 13, where the company will be presenting all types of agri- and peatland PV with crop cultivation and animal husbandry in detail. For appointment enquiries, please contact e.brasche(at)sunfarming.de.
The politicians were impressed by the fact that SUNfarming Agri-Solar systems, with a maximum height of just 3.6 metres, can be used for agricultural purposes with small tractors, which can be replaced by AI Agri Robotic in the future and blend in well with the landscape. They also praised the patented SUNfarming rainwater distribution system for extensive irrigation under the modules.
In addition to the tour of the plant, the following topics were addressed at the meeting:
- Solar open spaces are currently still 100% the responsibility of the Minister of Energy/Environment. Farmers and SUNfarming are calling for the Ministry of Agriculture to be given a say in authorisations for agri-solar systems.
- Another demand is that agri-solar must be eligible for authorisation in landscape conservation areas, as is already the case in other federal states, due to the agricultural production that is possible here.
- In view of the fact that set-asides (CAP 4-10% fallow land) can also be combined with agri-solar in the future, this will also lead to landscape conservation areas and sites with better soils being opened up for agri-PV in Saxony-Anhalt.
- In the opinion of SUNfarming, it is incomprehensible why land utilisation plans are still necessary for agricultural agri-solar systems. As agri-solar is still an agricultural use, it should not be treated as a purely open-space system, explains Peter Schrum, SUNfarming founder.
Village power concepts and school gardens:
To further increase acceptance significantly, SUNfarming already has regional village electricity concepts where the community receives cheaper electricity. The village electricity concept was also very well received. Just like the SUNfarming school garden, which is made available to the community in municipalities with agri-solar areas of 50 ha or more for joint use to grow vegetables, fruit or for poultry farming, for schools and kindergartens to teach healthy eating.
The ministry of education and the King and Queen of the royal family of the Netherlands engaged our team and other stakeholders, in a workshop which discussed the just energy transition to green energy and it challenges in South Africa.
Nicolaas Faure van Schalkwyk, Manager of the Solar Training Centre, highlighted the importance of how practical up to date industry experience, needs to form part of the training curriculum and experience. "Education institutions are too slow and not dynamic enough to adapt their qualifications to the fast-changing environment in the renewable energy sector. Training providers in collaboration with international industry experience from SUNFarming and technology service providers like Brainstud, can reach more people and assist with making people more employable with micro courses, skills programmes and part qualifications. South Africa has elevated levels of unemployment, but there is also a need for experienced solar PV installers. Something which we in partnership with Johan Schaap from
Brainstud try to achieve"
Under GAEC 8 (Healthy Agricultural Ecological Status), a set-aside area may only be grazed or mown in September. For this agricultural policy SUNfarming combines flowering meadows with agriphotovoltaics.
Over 40 different wildflower seeds are contained in the special mixture. Among them are various types of clover, meadow bluebell, viper's bugloss, corn poppy, true parsnip and meadow sage. The wildflower component in the SUNfarming mix is REWISA certified (Regional Wild Plant Seeds). Various grasses in the mixture increase forage quality and grazing suitability. They improve soil structure, suppress weeds and provide adaptation to dry or wet soil.
For biodiversity areas with natural species diversity, Agri-Photovoltaic plants are suitable, which are approx. 2.1m at the lowest edge. In general, sown wild herbs should reproduce themselves by seed. Cutting or mulching should therefore only take place after the seeds have set or not at all.
Due to the shading and the resulting cooler climate, evaporation under the panels is considerably reduced. Even between the rows of panels, the shadows cast by the module table counteract drying out. Under the panels, flowering plants develop more in the second year of standing and can flower for a very long time. The rainwater distribution technique has a positive effect; in this area, plants thrive better on light soil.
"From my point of view, it is worthwhile under Agri-PV systems to use a very versatile mix that can adapt to the environment (different shading, different soil, different climate depending on the location even within the system). Not only single grasses/flowering plants should be used. Drought-tolerant plants can be used as well as moisture-loving ones," explains Michael Bleiker, SUNfarming project manager at the Rathenow Research and Innovation Centre.
The wildflower mix produced for SUNfarming can now also be purchased under the trade name SUNfarming B1 from „Samen Schwarzenberger“.
Agrivoltaic systems that combine photovoltaic panels and agriculture, made by the German company SUNfarming, produce energy, provide shelter and space for plants and animals and ensure more efficient use of rainwater.