Project Description

Austria’s first agrophotovoltaic system

Generating solar power and simultaneously using the land for agricultural purposes: By means of Austria’s first agrophotovoltaic system (APV), one with an output of 22.5 kWp, Wien Energie is defining new benchmarks when it comes to designing open-space photovoltaic systems. This innovative concept allows agricultural land to be used for two purposes and up to 60% more efficiently. This pilot system, with 60 bifacial, vertically-mounted solar modules, was commissioned in Guntramsdorf at the end of October 2019.

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Project details

Guntramsdorf, in Lower Austria, is already a pioneering community when it comes to solar power generation. One of Austria’s largest photovoltaic systems has been producing power for hundreds of households here since 2015. The innovative expansion of this facility highlights that traditional farming and smart forms of energy production are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary: Farmers benefit not only from the crop but also from the solar harvest. This pilot project is the first to demonstrate the diverse positive effects in practice on Austria’s agricultural sector.

An agrophotovoltaic system is different both in terms of how the modules work and how they are positioned. These modules can produce power on both sides – the front and the back. In contrast to standard open-space systems, they are not installed at an angle facing south. Instead, they are installed vertically, which means they can capture solar rays on both sides. They are arranged facing east/west in order to maximise the power generated.

Besides the fact that they generate more power due to their east/west orientation, it is also possible to use the land for agricultural purposes since they are arranged in rows. This also provides other advantages: APV systems also protect ground crops from excessive exposure to the sun due to the shadows they cast. They reduce direct solar radiation on the ground as well as UV radiation, reduce the usage of water and protect the soil from drying out. This allows harvests to be increased and boosts the region’s value added.

To ensure that agrophotovoltaic technology is used optimally, we are conducting a study of this new technology together with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU). The first results of the lifecycle analysis illustrate that the CO2-saving effect is high when bifacial, vertical photovoltaic modules are installed on a potato field. The first detailed results are due to be published in early 2020.

Josef Taucher

“The combination of agriculture and energy production offers enormous potential synergies. If Austria wants to reach its climate goals, it will need an extensive expansion of photovoltaic technology to up to 15 terawatt hours by 2030. The additional power generation capacity needed will not be entirely covered by roof-mounted systems. In future, we will need to rely on environmentally-sensitive, open-space agrophotovoltaic systems.”

Josef Taucher, Energy Spokesman of the Social Democratic Party of Vienna (SPÖ)

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