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BayWa R.e. Expands Agri-PV Pilot Setup And Completes First Fruitvoltaic Solar Farm

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Global renewable energy developer BayWa r.e. have announced the completion of its first Agri-PV project for redcurrants in the Netherlands.

The redcurrants grown on Rini Kusters' fruit farm in Wadenoijen in the Netherlands are now protected by a new, permanent cultivation support facility - a unique Agri-PV solar farm. BayWa r.e.'s project approach means there is no need for plastic arches. Better protection is offered against extreme weather events, and there is now provision for a more stable climate for growing fruits and generating green energy at the same time.

BayWa r.e. and its Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven have expanded the original installation, first set up as a pilot project in 2020, to a full solar source with 1,2 MWp and more than 4,500 solar panels. The solar farm now generates enough green energy to power around 400 households every year. 4,500 plants in total will produce approximately 23 tons of redcurrant harvest per year.

First trials were carried out in 2019, where two types of panels including a semi-transparent variant, were tested with raspberries. In 2020, in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research, the trial was expanded to include other pilots. Each looked at the effectiveness of installing solar panels above different types of soft fruit, including Rini Kusters' redcurrants.

Results showed that the installation of solar panels created both favourable lower temperatures for the plants and better protection from adverse weather conditions.

Stephan Schindele, Product Manager Agri-PV at BayWa r.e. commented: “These pilot projects were a real success. We monitored not only the climate under the panels, but also the plant health and fruit growth.”

“We had already created one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated ‘fruitvoltaic' solutions in Europe in 2020, with our 2.67 MWp raspberry PV installation in Babberich. Today, we are very excited to continue this fantastic journey and see our efforts rewarded by entering a new chapter of Agri-PV with a new berry crop in Wadenoijen.”

The Agri-PV installation now generates clean, renewable energy, but the fact that it offers protection against hail, heavy rain or extreme heat is another real added value for farmers.

Rini Kusters said: “Weather excesses are becoming more and more common, and they are harmful to the plants. The development of fungus on the fruit due to a too wet climate for example, is a problem that is increasingly frequent.”

He noted: “On the hottest day last year it was 10 degrees cooler under the solar panels. On the wettest day, the plants remained dry. It's a solution that I really believe in.”

Benedikt Ortmann, Global Director of Solar Projects at BayWa r.e. added: “Agri-PV is a renewable energy solution that is helping farmers both combat the impacts of climate change and decarbonize their farming activities.”

“It also brings them social, environmental, and economic benefits. By taking this step, we help them reduce waste and investment costs and at the same time contribute to moving forward the global energy transition that is essential to the future of our planet.”BayWa r.e. is currently planning additional Agri-PV projects in Europe, together with pear, apple and other fruits producers, with a total capacity of 35 MWp by 2022.

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