By Joaquim Elcacho
Renewable energies are revolutionizing the world energy market and offer real alternatives to sources as traditional and polluting as hydrocarbons, whose combustion is related to climate change. In the case of photovoltaic solar energy, advances include areas of new development such as the recently called agrovoltaic energy, that is, the combination of good agricultural practices with modern solar technology with the aim of producing electricity in a clean way, improving the use of agricultural land and even reduce water consumption.
One of the recent applications in agrovoltaic energy is agricultural greenhouses with roofs covered with photovoltaic panels. China has become one of the most advanced countries in pilot projects with this new technology and towns like Yang Fang, in Guizhou province, have spectacular greenhouses covered with solar panels. China plans an investment equivalent to 280 million euros in the next three years to reach an installed capacity of 150 MW in greenhouses with photovoltaic roofs.
Professor Jinlin Xue, from Nanjing Agrarian University (China), has analyzed the growth in this specific sector of agrovoltaic energy and details the conditions necessary for its balanced development in an article published (May 2017) in the specialized journal Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.
“Photovoltaic energy has shown a dramatic increase in recent years, and photovoltaic greenhouses, like the new modes of distributed photovoltaic power generation combined with agricultural greenhouses, can reap benefits from photovoltaic power generation in addition to the income from plantations. agricultural ”, highlights Professor Jinlin Xue.
Reduce the price of plates and cut bank interest, conditions to facilitate investment in this new application of renewable energy
The author of this work has applied new cost analysis models to calculate the real possibilities of the application of photovoltaic energy in agricultural greenhouses. Until now, the big problems in this application have been the price of solar panels and the lack of economic resources of farmers to invest in this type of electricity production greenhouses.
"The results show that photovoltaic greenhouses with large installed photovoltaic capacity, which occupy a large area of land, require very high investments, which are not available to farmers, not even to large agricultural companies," says Jinlin Xue.
The author details the conditions necessary for this situation to change in countries like China and highlights the social and environmental benefits that can be derived from this new application of renewable energy.
In addition to maintaining the process of reducing the manufacturing costs of increasingly efficient solar panels, China should apply advantageous conditions for bank loans for this type of applications and ensure official aid for the production of renewable energy, Junlin Xue indicates in an exposure that could be perfectly applicable to many other countries (including Spain, where the government continues to impede the development of renewables).
On the other hand, projects for the installation of greenhouses with solar panels should have solid economic studies that take into account the profitability margin of the crops (which facilitate the initial investment in solar panels) and the geographical location of these greenhouses. , with the aim of guaranteeing the hours of sunshine necessary to make these facilities profitable and access to networks for the efficient distribution of the electricity produced.
If investment problems are solved, solar energy in greenhouses can benefit farmers and the whole planet.
"With an adequate planting pattern and planting species in the right sunlight area, the right scale investment in photovoltaic greenhouses can achieve two victories: in the economy of crops and in the benefits of electricity generation," he concludes. Professor Junlin Xue.
Reference scientific article:
Economic assessment of photovoltaic greenhouses in China. Jinlin Xue. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. May, 2017. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4982748