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Solar Energy in Agriculture: A New Era for the Green Economy


Solar Energy in Agriculture: A New Era for the Green Economy

As in almost all economic sectors, energy, in general, and sustainable energy in the form of solar energy, in particular, plays a significant role in agriculture. What sets solar energy in agriculture apart is the potential, under certain conditions, to double-utilize agricultural land, such as for cattle grazing or as a location for fruit trees. However, farmers have often faced bureaucratic hurdles in the past, despite the fact that sustainable agriculture through solar technology is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

The Role of Solar Energy in Modern Agriculture

For agriculture and the country as a whole, achieving increased efficiency in agriculture through solar panels is generally advantageous. Investments in technologies that enhance the efficiency of an economic sector result in a competitive advantage for individual agricultural businesses and the location of Germany as a whole. Additionally, the implementation of new technologies ensures that competition is maintained, laying the groundwork for the meaningfulness of further developments. The significance for other economic sectors and professional groups benefiting from these improvements, such as trade and installation companies, should not be overlooked.

Agriculture itself is predisposed to the establishment of solar installations due to large, partly unused, and partly double-usable areas. In addition to land areas, many agricultural operations have large roof surfaces that can easily be covered with solar panels. To make the installation of such a system economically viable, various remuneration models exist. Depending on the size of the installation, surplus electricity not used for self-consumption can be fed into the grid at a fixed remuneration rate or must be sold directly through the electricity exchange for installations larger than 100 kW. Another option is leasing the usable land. The remuneration in this model is the lowest, but in this case, the farmer bears neither the installation nor investment costs nor the operating costs.

Another incentive for environmentally friendly agriculture with solar installations is the funding offered by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, or KfW (Reconstruction Credit Institute). The KfW offers farmers the opportunity to finance their photovoltaic system up to 100 percent through KfW.

Innovative Applications of Solar Panels in Agriculture

Especially in the field of Agri-PV, developments are progressing rapidly, with various solutions being explored for different applications. The following are two solutions:

High-elevated installations are setups placed, for example, above fruit trees. The solar panels are, as far as possible, transparent, allowing the maximum amount of sunlight to pass through. While this technology is comparatively complex and consequently incurs high costs, it has additional advantages beyond electricity production. It provides, for instance, protection against hail, heavy rain, and excessive sunlight, mitigating to some extent the impact of weather extremes, which have become more frequent in recent years.

Another form is ground-level installations with sufficient space between the stands to allow for the operation of larger machinery, such as combine harvesters. In addition to these two forms, there are many others, such as greenhouse installations, aquatic or floating systems.

Advantages and Challenges of Integrating Solar Energy into Agriculture

Both advantages and challenges are multifaceted. The advantages for the farmer include more efficient work, higher profits, and better planning, as the past has shown that weather extremes and crop failures are increasing. The challenges are clearly on the financial side and currently still in bureaucracy. For the country, expanding renewable energy in agriculture is an important building block for achieving CO2 goals. For this reason, subsidies are offered, which also come at the expense of the taxpayer but benefit them through a healthier environment.

In general, it can be said that the benefits for all involved are evident. The goal is to preserve a livable planet. However, the path to this goal is not easy and requires a certain amount of effort from all parties involved.

Future Perspectives: Sustainable Development of Agriculture through Solar Energy

Today, solar technology is in good shape and offers many advantages to agricultural businesses. However, development is advancing rapidly, and research has produced new products that far surpass the electricity yield of currently used solar cells. Currently, the efficiency of solar cells is about 20 percent. One project that has delivered tangible results is one from the University of New York. Using a special film, they managed to harness 82 percent of light energy—an absolute record compared to the current state of technology. When combining the performance of solar power production with the development of new battery technologies and the electrification of many devices, even tractors, it becomes clear where the journey is heading. The potential to have one's energy filling station on the roof has the power to revolutionize the entire German agriculture sector.

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