Authorities from O'Higgins Region visit Agro PV project facilities

Representatives of the public sector and agricultural business met the pilot farm in Lampa where vegetables are grown and photovoltaic energy is generated on the same surface of soil.

The regional representative of the Ministry of Energy in the O'Higgins Region, Pedro Pablo Ogaz, and members of the Agro Environmental Roundtable, from that region, visited on Tuesday, June 11, the facilities of the Agro PV project, implemented by Fraunhofer Chile in the commune of Lampa, Metropolitan Region.

The group was accompanied by Fraunhofer Chile researchers Isabel Acuña and Laura Pérez, and business developer Norberto Collazo.

The Agro PV concept is based on producing energy using photovoltaic solar panels installed on agricultural crops, optimizing land use in a harmonious and optimal way. The Fraunhofer Chile Solar Energy Technology Center has implemented three pilots of this project in the Metropolitan Region. One of them is located in Agrícola Sobreterra Ltda, in Lampa, and the other two in Curacaví and El Monte.

"Some of the benefits of implementing this system is that it makes double use of land, since on the same land surface electricity is generated and agricultural production is used for food purposes," explained Isabel Acuña, researcher at the agriculture division of Fraunhofer Chile's Center for Systems Biotechnology.

"We see this project with great interest, as it shows how to make a photovoltaic technology solution compatible with soil protection for the production of crops that can be profitable," said Pedro Pablo Ogaz. The authority added that this project would be a solution to harmoniously develop the agriculture of the future..

Technological Transfer

The application of the Agro PV system in vegetable crops has shown good results, explained researcher Laura Perez, emphasizing that "we have seen in crops of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli that the photovoltaic panel on crops does not affect their production.  She added that thanks to the shade generated by the panels, the impact of the sun is reduced and the radiation level received by the crops, a factor that lowers the quality of some fruits and vegetables.

Marco Aguilar, from Agrícola Sobreterra Ltda., commented that "in summer [the system] worked quite well because of the humidity in this area and the partial shade given by the panels on the crops. This allows us to save water and have better product quality.

Regarding the initiative implemented by Fraunhofer Chile, Eduardo Atala, a Peumo horticultural businessman who accompanied the authorities of the O'Higgins Region, stressed that "it would be ideal to be able to implement this system that complements the use of clean energy with the care of the soil. I have had the opportunity to get to know the agricultural reality in countries such as Brazil, Spain and Mexico, where we already have a lot of advantage, then see that there are actors interested in modernizing our agriculture to bring it to a sustainable and technological level, gives good signals to our sector”.

The Agro PV project began in the first half of 2016 thanks to technology transfer by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany.

Patricia Gese, project engineer at Fraunhofer Chile's Centre for Solar Energy Technologies, which has participated in adapting this model in our country, explains that when the photovoltaic plant was built in 2016, the panels had a power of 260 Watts per photovoltaic module. But "nowadays the photovoltaic modules have much more efficiency, being able to increase the electrical production up to 30% in the same surface”.

The three locations in the Metropolitan Region where there are Agro PV pilots have the technical and social requirements needed to implement the project, such as the availability of adequate electrical connection, reasonable distances between the location of the photovoltaic plant and consumption points, flexibility in crop management and an adequate size and variety of agricultural machinery in use.