Research results show: double use of agricultural land for energy production has future potential – biodiversity is supported
Vienna (OTS) – Since 2019, Wien Energie has been testing the dual use of agricultural land for solar power production in cooperation with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. At the Schafflerhofstraße location in the 22nd district, around 400 vertically erected, bifacial modules have been in use since 2021. These generate energy on two sides and enable agricultural cultivation in between. In this way, food and green electricity can be produced at the same time. In the first year, lucerne was primarily cultivated to improve the soil. In 2022, various types of grain (winter wheat, winter spelled and winter barley) and soybeans were grown, which already delivered good yields in the first year of harvest. This year the experiment will be continued according to the principle of crop rotation. At the end of the year, the results will be finally analyzed and a decision will be made on the further development of the research project. The vertical system on Schafflerhofstraße is the largest system of its kind in Austria.
“In order for the energy transition to succeed by 2040, we need a technological mix. Wien Energie is therefore driving forward the expansion of solar power on a massive scale. Photovoltaic systems on roofs alone will not be sufficient to cover the demand for renewable electricity in the future. In order to develop all potentials, it is therefore necessary to select the appropriate photovoltaic system depending on the circumstances. Rooftop, open space and agricultural photovoltaic systems result in a valuable combination here,” emphasizes Michael Strebl, CEO of Wien Energie.
“Agrophotovoltaics in combination with digitized agriculture offers farmers new opportunities for farming with additional income and major technological advances. For example, the green energy can be used directly for food production, which means an additional CO2 reduction. Due to the special investment form of agricultural photovoltaics, automation will also be possible in the near future,” explains Helmut Wagentristl, professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and director of the Groß-Enzersdorf experimental farm.
In the last two years, essential insights into this form of solar power production have been gained, which are now being further deepened.
Increased land use efficiency through agricultural photovoltaics
By combining the generation of electricity by means of photovoltaics and the production of food on one and the same area, the area is used more efficiently than with simple cultivation. About 85 percent of the area is used for arable farming, about 14 percent for so-called flowering strips and about one percent for the photovoltaic framework. The dual use is economically more profitable than the pure cultivation of plants, since the farmer creates an additional source of income through the electricity yield. This results in a very high land use efficiency.
Power generation comparable to classic photovoltaic modules
Vertically erected agricultural photovoltaic systems produce a comparable amount of electricity as conventional south-facing systems. Due to the east-west orientation, they have the advantage that the energy production is highest when the most electricity is needed. A combination of classic and bifacial, i.e. double-sided, photovoltaic systems offers the possibility of smoothing out the generation profile throughout the day and thus relieving the power grid.
Flower strips promote biodiversity
To protect the photovoltaic system from agricultural damage, a distance of about one meter is left between the modules and the field. At Agrar-PV Schafflerhofstrasse, three different methods were tested to keep this strip free of weeds. The sowing of a special flowering mixture and the mechanical care of the meadow seed have proven themselves. The flower strip also increases biodiversity.
Practical management for the farmer
Trials at the Schafflerhof show that the management of the agricultural photovoltaic field works without any problems. The ten meter wide gap between the modules allows the conventional use of machines. Agricultural cultivation between bifacial photovoltaic modules is thus similar to normal agriculture.
Photovoltaic expansion by Wien Energie
With around 400 rooftop and ground-mounted systems, Wien Energie is Austria’s largest photovoltaic system operator. In the first half of 2023, Wien Energie already put numerous photovoltaic systems into operation, including as part of the Vienna solar power offensive on the roof of the Wiener Linien main workshop in Simmering and the port of Vienna. The total output of the Wien Energie photovoltaic systems thus increases to 116 megawatts. By the end of the year, another 60 photovoltaic systems are to be set up, which have been intensively prepared, especially in the last six months. Wien Energie’s goal is to generate a total of 1,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Technical data for the vertical agricultural photovoltaic system on Schafflerhofstraße:
Output: 158.4 kWpNumber of modules: 396 pieces. Row spacing: 10 m Total area: approx. 5,000 m² Orientation of the PV modules: Vertical, east-west orientation Annual production: approx. 184,380 kWh
Questions & contact:
Press Officer Wien Energie
Phone: 0664 884 813 03
E-Mail: [email protected]