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Research into the ecological effects of innovative solar parks

A partnership between LC Energy, TNO, Wageningen University & Research, Eelerwoude and SolarCentury will investigate the effects of innovative solar parks on soil quality and biodiversity. The aim of this research is to realise six new pilot solar parks in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency subsidises the SolarEcoPlus project with 3.6 million euros. This initiative originated within the National Consortium Solar in Landscape.

Project SolarEcoPlus: research into the ecological effects of innovative solar parks

The main goal of the SolarEcoPlus research project is to determine the ecological and economic benefits of solar parks constructed with recently introduced bifacial panels for the most common soil types in the Netherlands: sand, peat and clay. “We’re pleased with the subsidy granted for our project. The ecological consequences of solar parks are currently unknown,” says Friso Huizinga of LC Energy. “This makes it difficult for municipalities to make a decision on the establishment of a solar park and thus slows down the energy transition. For this reason, it’s very important that research is carried out.”

Space between panels

Recent research in Germany indicates that there can be positive effects on biodiversity and soil quality if space is kept between the panels. In a standard solar park, however, this would lead to higher electricity costs. With innovative bifacial solar panels, a greater distance between panels is more beneficial because the back of the bifacial panel also converts sunlight into electricity as compared to the monofacial standard panel where the rear side is inactive. Because the production costs of bifacial panels differ marginally from the standard, the ecological conditions in these parks could be improved with the same business case.

Bankability

The project also aims to make a significant contribution to the bankability of bifacial systems, which is still a barrier slowing down the market introduction of this promising technology. An important challenge in this is obtaining sufficient certainty regarding the additional yield from the rear side of these panels. TNO is therefore measuring the yields of the various set-ups as compared to a normal solar park with is installed adjacent to the test field. “By accurately measuring the yield of bifacial solar panels in different configurations, we can show that they actually deliver more electricity per panel than the standard monofacial panels. It’s logical that financiers want such proof before they step in,” explains Wim Sinke, principal scientist solar energy at TNO.

Research of global interest

The results that follow from the research will be made publicly accessible and can therefore make a direct contribution to the more sustainable development of future solar parks.

PV panel and system manufacturers

The brands of the single axis tracking systems and bifacial PV panels have not yet been fixed yet and manufacturers or suppliers are welcome to inquire at TNO for more information on the project.

More information about the SolarEcoPlus project?

Get in touch with Wim Sinke, principal scientist solar energy at TNO

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