SUNfarming Africa’s project has been implemented as part of the National Scheme for Emerging/Innovative Renewable Energy Technologies by the Mauritius Renewable Energy Authority. This project will contribute to the green energy transition as well as improve local food and job security in the region, and eventually the whole country.
In his address, Minister Lesjongard rejoiced that the SUNfarming Food & Energy Agrisolar Training Centre marks a pivotal moment in Mauritius’ journey towards sustainability and a brighter future for the country. He recalled that since several years, Government’s vision has been to transform Mauritius into a high income, inclusive and green country. ‘Our nation has long been a pioneer in recognising the delicate balance between economic progress and ecological preservation and the introduction of the agri-solar farm is a leap forward in this direction’, he said.
He further highlighted that the commitment of Government to both the agricultural and the energy sectors has been translated in its successive budgets. In the last budget speech 2023/2024, Government has reiterated this commitment and provided Rs 2 billion to support existing and new developments in the agricultural sector, he added.
He also remarked that Mauritius is among the very few countries in the world that has proactively introduced such a renewable energy scheme. He shared that the objective is to maximise the use of renewable energy technology, including innovative and emerging technologies, in the journey towards a more sustainable and greener Mauritius.
Minister Lesjongard underlined that the concept of agri PV is an innovative approach that has the potential to transform the socioeconomic and environmental landscape of the country. Government, he added, endeavours to create a synergy where agricultural productivity and renewable energy generation harmoniously coexist. By utilising solar panels alongside agricultural fields, we are optimising our land usage, producing clean energy, and cultivating our soil sustainably, he stated.
For his part, Minister Ramano observed that the solution to climate challenges will be defined by our capability to innovate and rethink the way we use our resources. He thus opined that agri-voltaic is an innovative way to address this issue as it makes simultaneous use of land for solar energy production and agriculture practices. Agri-voltaic could be a solution to both decarbonise the electricity mix and enhance food security, he said.
The SUNfarming project:
This agrivoltaic project combines high quality photovoltaic electricity generation and food production facilities (bio-horticulture and vegetable production by drip irrigation).
SUNfarming has designed special Food & Energy systems, made in Germany, that enable the cultivation of plants underneath solar panels, which will be installed at Gros Cailloux.
This unique plant will be used as a research and training platform in collaboration with local partners in the field of modern agriculture and solar renewable energy.
The plant has been injecting energy into the CEB medium voltage network since July 2023.
The SUNfarming Group is based in Germany and has installed more than 600 MWp of solar projects worldwide over 1,000 hectares. SUNfarming Africa, the subsidiary of the SUNfarming Group in Mauritius, is aiming to develop unique solar projects in the Indian Ocean, notably in Mauritius and Madagascar.
Peter Schrum SUNfarming Founder and Main Shareholder:
“The country has very limited land and needs to invest in such technologies to double the use of the land. This project will contribute to the green energy transition as well as improve local food and job security in the region, and eventually the whole island. The 200 kWp pilot plant showcases the real benefits of Food & Energy as an innovative technology. Our goal is then to invest in large scale Food & Energy projects across the island.”
“As a tropical island where the sun never stops shining, we can and should show our capacity to harness that energy. We firmly believe that combining solar energy generation with sustainable agriculture is an optimum solution for us. Conventional solar projects are quite restricted in their contribution to society, so combining agriculture with solar panels allows for local communities to benefit more from such projects and adds to self-subsistence. We are working to scale up our pilot plant here, in Gros Cailloux and also to other places in Mauritius”, explains Chetan Jankee, SUNfarming Project Manager International Projects.
This project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action as part of the Renewable Energy Solutions Programme of the German Energy Solutions Initiative.
German Energy Agency (dena)
The German Energy Agency (dena) is a centre of excellence for the applied energy transition and climate protection. dena studies the challenges of building a climate-neutral society and supports the German government in achieving its energy and climate policy objectives. Since its founding in 2000, dena has worked to develop and implement solutions and bring together national and international partners from politics, industry, the scientific community and all parts of society. dena is a project enterprise and a public company owned by the German federal government. dena’s shareholders are the Federal Republic of Germany and the KfW Group. www.dena.de/en
German Energy Solutions Initiative
With the aim of positioning German technologies and know-how worldwide, the German Energy Solutions Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) supports suppliers of climate-friendly energy solutions in opening up foreign markets. The focus lies on renewable energies, energy efficiency, smart grids and storage, as well as technologies such as power-to-gas and fuel cells. Aimed in particular at small and medium-sized enterprises, the German Energy Solutions Initiative supports participants through measures to prepare market entry as well as to prospect, develop and secure new markets. www.german-energy-solutions.de/en
Renewable Energy Solutions Programme (RES Programme)
With the RES programme, the Energy Export Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) helps German companies in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors enter new markets. Within the framework of the programme, reference plants are installed and marketed with the support of the German Energy Agency (dena). Information and training activities help ensure a sustainable market entry and demonstrate the quality of climate-friendly technologies made in Germany.
The system development team of the SUNfarming group, which develops all photovoltaic system concepts and substructures of SUNfarming itself, had already developed the research systems on behalf of the Fraunhofer ISE Institute and the Project Management Organisation Jülich in Alt-Morschenich, among others.
For the development of the floating solar plant for the gravel plant in Kaphof/Hückelhoven, the plant development team worked together with plant constructors from the submarine and shipbuilding industries, among others.
The SUNfarming floating solar system was designed to have the most positive effect possible on the ecology of the water, water evaporation is reduced, the oxygen content for flora and fauna in the artificial water is positively influenced and no pollutants are released into the water. The life span of the floating solar system is at least 40 years. The green electricity generated almost completely covers the gravel plant's own electricity needs at the site.
Yvonne Hensing & Nicole Quadflieg – Management of Kieswerk Laprell Kaphof GmbH & Co. KG
"As an electricity-intensive company, we have been looking at the possibilities that floating PV offers our company for a long time. Our motivation was the sustainable reduction of the carbon dioxide footprint of our high-quality produced building materials as well as the long-term stabilization of our electricity costs. The idea developed together with SUNfarming and the innovative solution offered convinced us. A phase of about one and a half years with a test plant went successfully without any problems e.g. during storms. During the whole project and construction phase SUNfarming convinced us with professionalism, innovative spirit and perfect communication."
With a construction time of only 3 months from the first spade table to completion, 20 MW solar plant in Poland was successfully completed DC-side in June. In total, the plants save about 7,400 tonnes of CO2.
"We are pleased to contribute to the clean energy supply with 20 more megawatt PV plants in Poland. The professional and intensive cooperation of all parties involved has made this possible," explains Martin Tauschke, Managing Director of SUNfarming GmbH as well as SUNfarming Polska sp.z.o.o..
Photovoltaics is becoming more and more important among the renewable energy sources in Poland, as it is the cheapest energy that can be generated with existing technologies. In addition, the use of fallow land and land with low soil quality conserves agricultural arable land.
Kosciercyna is an urban municipality in the Woidwodschaft Pomerania in Poland and the independent rural municipality of Kosciercyna with 24,000 inhabitants.
SUNfarming has also built another 13.5 MW in Germany.The PV plant generates green electricity that will supply regional businesses. In total, the plant saves about 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
"We are pleased that, together with our long-standing partners, we can continue to make our contribution to renewable energy supply in Germany and the expansion of biodiversity with classic EEG plants in addition to our main focus of agri-solar plants in Germany," explains Thies Schrum, member of the management board of SUNfarming.
Prof. Dr Volker Quaschning is Professor of Renewable Energy Systems at HTW-Berlin. Expert on renewable energies, energy transition, climate protection and book author, LinkedIn top voice with over 160,000 followers in social media. With regular new content on climate change and energy policy topics, he puts current debates into a scientific context. Among other things, the Solar Storage Systems Research Group (https://solar.htw-berlin.de/) is working on an electricity storage inspection and the development of a key figure to evaluate the energy efficiency of PV storage systems.
During a joint tour with Michael Bleiker, the plant manager in Rathenow, the research facilities were presented with first exciting insights. Special interest was shown in the various plant cultures that SUNfarming successfully cultivates under special self-developed Agri-PV systems. Richard Rose and Marek Enzenbach presented the ongoing research project "PV cooling mat" to increase the efficiency of a PV system by means of surface cooling mats in combination with an underground storage tank.
Afterwards, general topics around current and future research projects such as agro-robotics, aquaponic systems and battery systems for the future (base load supply, PPA contracts, balancing energy) were discussed.
The HTW will conduct an interview with a SUNfarming employee about the planning of PV ground-mounted systems. The findings from this interview will be integrated into the study content of the HTW-Berlin, including area design, EEG basic rules, height problems in construction and shading analysis.
Together with Prof. Dr Volker Quaschning, SUNfarming will develop and offer several final thesis topics
After the welcome by Peter Schrum, Founder and Shareholder of the SUNfarming Group, a tour followed with Mr. Schrum and Michael Bleiker, the plant manager in Rathenow, to present the research facilities with first exciting insights. After a snack, which included self-harvested raspberries, various presentations followed.
Arndt Lahmann, Junior Project Consultant Agri-Solar at SUNfarming, started the series of lectures with the presentation of the SUNfarming Group and the developed agri-solar concepts on grassland, agricultural and set-aside areas as well as for the moor solar concept for the coupling of the expansion of renewable energies and climate protection/CO2 reduction through the rewetting of agriculturally used, drained moor soils. Interesting details were presented on the preservation of the agricultural status of soils through agri-solar systems in accordance with DIN SPEC Standard 91434 "Agri-Photovoltaics" and the latest amendment to the German Building Code.
Torsten Holler, Managing Director of Agricultural Service-, Trading and Consulting Company, then went into the possible combinations of an agri-solar system with the guidelines of the renewed Common Agricultural Policy 2023 (CAP). The focus was on the standards of the good agricultural and ecological condition of the land (GAEC). Among these, the combination of the set-aside obligation according to GAEC 8 with agri-photovoltaics was particularly addressed, which, according to the PV strategy of the BMWK, is to be made possible in the subsequent solar package in May 2023. The EEG amendment was also discussed.
Following the series of lectures, there was a lively exchange between the speakers and the very interested guests, with many exciting questions being discussed.
SUNfarming Africa’s project has been implemented as part of the National Scheme for Emerging/Innovative Renewable Energy Technologies (NSEIRET) by the MARENA, Mauritius Renewable Energy Authority.
The goal is to build an agrivoltaic “Food & Energy Research and Training Centre” with an allocated capacity of 200 kWp over an area of 4500 m2 at Gros Cailloux.
An agrivoltaic project, which SUNfarming calls “Food & Energy”, combines high quality photovoltaic electricity generation and food production facilities (bio-horticulture and vegetable production by drip irrigation).
SUNfarming has designed special Food & Energy systems, made in Germany, that enable the cultivation of plants underneath solar panels, which will be installed at Gros Cailloux. This unique plant will be used as a research and training platform in cooperation with local partners in the field of modern agriculture and solar renewable energy.
SUNfarming has installed the agrivoltaic pilot plant of 200 kWp that is currently being commissioned with the CEB. Grid connection is expected to be done by the end of July 2023.