A new large-scale research project, funded by the Innovation Fund with DKK 22.8 million and developed in collaboration with European Energy, Aarhus University, Copenhagen University, and Slagelse Municipality, will investigate the potential of agrivoltaic, a promising multifunctional agricultural system that combines crop production with solar energy production.
The demand for renewable energy has led to an increase in solar panel installation on agricultural land, but this can compromise food production. Agrivoltaic is a system that can help address this issue by installing solar panels over agricultural land, allowing crops to be grown and cultivated rationally under the panel, while renewable energy is generated. Agrivoltaic has the potential to maintain food production on a larger scale in a world affected by climate change while ensuring renewable energy production. However, the system still faces technical and economic challenges that this project aims to address.
The project will explore the potential benefits of agrivoltaic, including renewable energy and food production on the same area, intensive use of field robots, increased biodiversity, the technical and economic viability of the system, and the acceptance of farmers and the surrounding community. The project will include the installation of a 2-ha. pilot plant on a typical eastern Danish agricultural area, investigate the potential and challenges of growing crops in the plant, and monitor its performance over a five-year period.
Mads Lykke Andersen, Head of Solar Energy Innovation at European Energy, expressed excitement about the project, saying, “We are excited to participate in this project to develop and mature the potential of agricultural and energy production, thus establishing a solid foundation for future larger projects. This project is an important step towards developing more sustainable and integrated approaches to food and energy production.”
Johannes Ravn Jørgensen, a lecturer at Aarhus University, added, “The current energy crisis and high energy prices have led to an increase in the installation of solar panels on agricultural land. This happens despite the fact that agricultural land is a limited resource that must also feed the world's rapidly increasing food needs.”
“In this project, we have the opportunity to uncover the potential for producing energy and food in an advanced agrivoltaic setup, using field robots. A strong focus for us has been that the newly established agrivoltaic systems must also contribute to increased biodiversity,” he continued.
Søren Marcus Pedersen, a lecturer at Copenhagen University, expressed his interest in investigating whether agrivoltaic systems can create a better economy for both the individual farmer and the surrounding community, stating, “The interest from farmers and landowners in agrivoltaic systems is great. But we lack knowledge about whether agrivoltaic systems can create a better economy for both the individual farmer and the surrounding community. The agrivoltaic project will give us an exciting new opportunity to investigate this.”
Mayor in Slagelse Municipality Knud Vincents expressed pride in supporting the project, saying, “We need more green energy – both here in Slagelse and the rest of the world. That's why I'm proud that we in Slagelse Municipality are taking the lead and providing land for research that can help develop new sustainable solutions that combine food and energy production. It is both an opportunity to help solve a societal problem while also supporting knowledge-based jobs in the municipality.”
The project is scheduled to start in April 2023, with the installation of the pilot plant planned for later in the year, pending the approval of a rural zoning permit. With its potential to address some of the world's most pressing challenges, this research project on agrivoltaic holds great promise for the future of food and energy production.