AFP, Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 10:19 am
On Piet Albers’ farm, everyone is happy: the raspberries are now protected by a huge field of solar panels, and in return the energy company BayWa supplies more than 1,200 homes with electricity.
In the Netherlands and in Europe in general, this is the main issue for the solar industry, with states promising to deploy widely in terms of energy and climate objectives: where to find and accept space to deploy?
“We look everywhere”, answers Maarten de Groot of the Groenleven Group, a subsidiary of the German Bewa, which relies on these spaces where installations can have “dual use”.
Thus Piet Albers welcomed, as a greenhouse, a roof made of photovoltaic panels, placed three meters above the ground above his precious raspberries.
“I see summers are getting longer, and these fruits of the forest are burning in greenhouses. They have to be protected,” he says.
The farmer, who produces more than 200 tons of raspberries a year in a single cultivation, does not rent from the energy company, but has other benefits for three years: a more constant temperature, 25% less water, protection against hail, greenhouse plastic saved…
A broad smile splits his distraught face, as 37 degrees Celsius in his region this week announced: “In the greenhouse, I should have thrown away 10 to 20% of the fruit”.
On the other hand, BayWa has to bear additional costs: non-standard and less productive panels (semi-transparent to filter light), more complex maintenance, lists Maarten de Groot, for which “Emergence + dual-use + projects on state support Depends.”
An “agrivoltaic” project can generate 15-25% revenue loss compared to a solar park on the ground. The latter, cheaper and more productive, will therefore remain necessary, the sector believes.
– For each project, its local residents –
However, not all emerging solutions are necessarily too expensive, emphasizes Bewa. The company has set up a floating park on a quarry lake 50km from Mr Albers.
This 30m deep cavity, formed by years of sand excavating and refilling, now contains 17 hectares of solar panels as far as the eye can see, more than half of its area.
“Floats are a proven technology, not high-tech at all”, integrated like pontoons, shows Bewa Ray France project manager Hugo Parent. The investment is higher than land, but faster construction, easier maintenance and water, avoiding any overheating, increase the yield.
Also on the water, a dozen transformers send 20,000 volts through a giant cable to shore stations, destined for about 10,000 homes.
Here, energy companies rent the quarry, but often sell carbon-free electricity to the industrialist at a fixed price.
The Uivermeertjes park is the second largest floating park in Europe according to Bewa, with 29.8 megawatts (MW). The first is also in the Netherlands.
The idea doesn’t just please people, like William Peters, who fishes for carp and tench there. “The fish are growing, but will it continue?”, he asks the representatives of the industrialist, who try to reassure him: a study on another body of water showed little difference in temperature.
“We are a small country. As soon as you have a project, you find a local resident, you really have to think about sharing the space”, notes Maarten De Groot.
In Europe’s most densely populated country, renewable energy deployment through wind power begins in the less populated north. It is limited by the capacity of the electricity network there today, while the south is very urbanized, and the roof is already very equipped.
But the challenge is: The Netherlands, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2050, derives less than 12% of its final energy consumption from renewables.
Globally, the situation is similar: 2021 sees an unprecedented deployment of solar and wind capacity, but four times more will need to be installed each year to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency underlines.