in Switzerland, the bet of agrivoltaism against global warming
If technology, without sobriety, cannot, on its own, contain global warming, it can still help a lot. This is evidenced by the rise of agrivoltaism, which the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) defines as installations which make it possible to couple secondary photovoltaic production with main agricultural production by allowing synergy demonstrable functioning. In short, an agricultural practice that combines the production of fruit and vegetables with that of photovoltaic electricity.
The problem is that the yields are generally lower due to the shade of the panels on the crops. But not in Switzerland, where a company is testing a technology that promises to revolutionize the process and our relationship to agriculture.
In Conthey, in the canton of Valais, in the high-tech greenhouse of the Agroscope research centre, more energy is produced than is consumed to grow plants. Mathieu Ackerman is the co-founder of the company Insolight which manufactured the smart solar panels deployed on 165 m² of red fruits: “The panels are controlled by an algorithm which determines at each moment of the year what is the quantity of light which is necessary for the plants”he explains.
“If during the day, we exceed certain temperatures or there is too much light, the panels will gradually close and let in less light.”Matthew Ackerman
Another advantage: the device promises to fight against the artificialization of the soil. And it would also be more economical than plastic greenhouses. “We offer the farmer the same or even lower cost than the plastic tunnels he would use anyway to protect his crops, assures Mathieu Ackerman. Plastic tunnels can be blown away or damaged by hail, and need to be replaced every four or five years. It is therefore also a significant consumption of plastic which we replace.
The director of partnerships at Insolight, Luiggino Torrigiani does not need to be convinced by the power of solar energy, he who participated in the adventure of the Solar Impulse aircraft. He is sure of it: agrivoltaism is a must if we want to continue feeding the population while mitigating the effects of global warming:
“In Switzerland alone, on the bays, we have enough to cover more than a million households out of eight million inhabitants. Imagine then in the south of Spain, where there are square kilometers of greenhouse crops and which supplies almost all of Europe: it’s a gigantic potential!”Luiggino Torrigiani
If the tests are conclusive, the solar panels could be deployed on other crops such as vines, apples or cherries. The device is also of interest to other countries, including France, with projects at the start of the school year in the South-West.