At the AgriVoltaics Industry Forum Europe, which took place from November 28–29, 2023 in Strasbourg, the general consensus was that agrivoltaics will play a key role in creating a sustainable energy world. The many challenges and controversial issues it entails were also discussed.
At the heart of the discussions was the question of how farmers can be more involved in the planning and implementation of agricultural PV projects.
The opening session already demonstrated the huge potential of agricultural PV: Researchers agree that PV installations have a positive impact on the yields of a wide range of crops. Synergy effects like the shading of crops, which is necessary in many European regions, and dual land use strategies to reduce competition for land between agriculture and energy production were thoroughly examined in Strasbourg.
The focus was on the specific conditions for cultivation and the different requirements for PV installations on arable land, horticultural land and pastures. Attendees and speakers agreed: Agriculture must always come before agrivoltaics.
The forum gave industry representatives and experts from across Europe the opportunity to present best practices and the framework conditions in their countries. It became clear that one of the biggest obstacles – at both national and European level – was the lack of a clear regulatory framework for agrivoltaics.
The session on conflicts between investors, project planners, farmers and landowners was very well received. Contrary to popular belief, farmers don’t always own the land they cultivate – and this may be a source of friction here. In agricultural PV projects, the role of farmers must therefore be protected by giving them a fair financial share and involving them in the design of the PV projects when it comes to agricultural aspects. What became clear at AgriVoltaics is that the involvement of farmers is essential for agricultural PV to succeed.
Projects from Italy and other southern European countries were presented, showing how agrivoltaics is an important solution for adapting to climate change. In many regions of Europe, the destruction of agricultural land is continuing unabated, and innovative methods of shading and irrigation are vital. Generating clean energy on top of that is both smart and sensible.
The first European AgriVoltaics Industry Forum was met with lively interest from the photovoltaics industry. The challenge remains to attract more representatives of the agricultural industry in the future to discuss agricultural PV and its role in a future-oriented energy world. Next year, the AgriVoltaics Industry Forum will move beyond Europe and take place in Denver, USA from July 11–13, 2024.