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Solar panels on farmland made possible by smart solutions

Achieving the climate targets requires the deployment of large-scale renewable energy. This will lay claim to our space both on land and at sea. Society sometimes has reservations the installation of solar panels on land where food can also be produced. That is why TNO, Vattenfall, Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (RVB), ERF, Hemus and Aeres Hogeschool have joined forces in the Symbizon project in which this consortium is investigating the combination of a solar energy park with strip farming in order to obtain new knowledge and insights for efficient land use. This initiative originated within the National Consortium Solar in Landscape.

Consortium starts 4-year research project

When constructing solar parks, it is important to take into account the impact on our living environment and on the use of farmland. This is why energy companies and research institutes are developing concepts that make it possible to combine energy production and forms of farming that also contribute to agricultural biodiversity.

The aim of the Symbizon project is to show that a smart combination of solar panels and strip farming will keep the land intact for food production, improve the ecological properties and, at the same time, create a positive business case for the farmer.

Test site with bifacial solar panels

The combination of solar panels and agriculture means that fewer solar panels will be installed per hectare than in regular solar parks. A higher yield per solar panel is therefore necessary. That is why this project is studying the use of bifacial solar panels and a solar tracking system. At a test location to be determined, made available by the RVB, these panels will be placed in a field where various crops for organic agriculture will be grown in separate strips.

The consortium is developing and testing a solar tracking algorithm that monitors, for example, crop yield, energy yield, herb strip effect, weather forecast, energy price and soil conditions, and optimises them where possible. The effect of the sun tracking system on crop yield, diseases and ease of use for the farmer will also be measured.

The consortium received a TKI Urban Energy subsidy of € 400,000 for the 4-year Symbizon project.

TNO has knowledge of the various design choices for agri-PV. This can be used in combination with crop growth models to analyse business cases.

Image credits: ERF

Curious to learn more about solar panels on farmland?

Contact Bas van Aken ›

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