Press Release | July 4, 2023
The pilot project, created by the three partners Insolight, Romande Energie and Agroscope, has been in operation at the Agroscope site in Conthey (VS) since July 2021. The agrivoltaic installation, supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), enables strawberries and raspberries to be grown in pots over an area of 165m2, protected by the solar infrastructure. Throughout 2022, data on agricultural and electrical output was collected and analysed in order to optimise the installation’s performance and understand the effects it had on plant development. These analyses were used to develop a new version of the technology, which is now on the market.
The agronomic results refer to the cultivation of raspberries (‘Vajolet’ variety) under the first version of the insolagrin solution, as the tests on strawberries are not yet mature enough to give an indication on the agronomic impact of the installation. Trials of the crops grown using the new version of the technology will begin this 2023 season.
For comparison purposes, the control zone established is a plastic greenhouse. Three key characteristics were analysed: marketable yield per pot, sugar content and fruit weight. In all three cases, there were no statistically significant differences between the two zones.
The plant’s control system, configured to optimise climatic conditions for plants, generated 10.5 MWh of renewable energy between July 2021 and March 2023.
An innovative solution for simultaneously optimising agricultural and electrical production
These results show that the insolagrin dynamic agrivoltaic solution can protect plants and create optimal growing conditions, while producing solar energy. This should result in 15 to 20 tonnes of raspberries per hectare, while producing nearly 1 GWh annually from the same area.
By targeting crops that require protective structures (under plastic tunnels or greenhouses), the insolagrin solar installation offers a dual use by replacing existing structures. It also avoids the use of plastics and reduces water consumption.
“These results show that our insolagrin solution is delivering on its promise: maintaining the yield and quality of agricultural production, while generating renewable energy on the same land.”
Mathieu Ackermann, Technical Director and co-founder of Insolight.
“This installation is encouraging for the necessary energy transition: replacing existing structures with solar structures in agricultural areas would complete the solar roll-out.”
Martial Genolet, Head of Photovoltaic Business Line at Romande Energie
The project is supported by the Federal Office of Energy’s Pilot and Demonstration Program.
It combines the expertise of the three partners; Insolight provides the insolagrin dynamic agrivoltaic solution, which includes the solar module technology and the light control system. Agroscope is studying plant physiology, yields and crop quality. Romande Energie built the installation and supervises the production of solar energy.
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Founded in Lausanne (CH) in 2015 by Laurent Coulot (CEO), Mathieu Ackermann (CTO) & Florian Gerlich (Product Architect), Insolight is bringing insolagrin – a dynamic agrivoltaic solution – to market. Thanks to a unique infrastructure, insolagrin makes it possible to produce both electricity and agriculture on the same land. The system allows to protect the crops and control the light transmission to the plants through dynamic shading, while converting excess light into electricity.
By replacing plastic tunnels, the market opportunity is considerable: berries alone represent more than 200 GW p in Europe. Our team’s mission is to propose a solution that can have a global impact on the energy and agricultural sectors. Insolight has developed a Global Partnership Programme that Migros, the SwissRe Foundation and Fruits Rouges & Co have already joined.
The Romande Energie Group in a nutshell
The Romande Energie Group is a benchmark energy company and the leading electricity supplier in French-speaking Switzerland. It offers a wide range of sustainable solutions in areas as varied as energy distribution and production, energy services, energy efficiency and electric mobility.
Through its own 100% renewable production, its innovative services and its Corporate Social Responsibility policy, the Group aims to develop, together with its customers, investors and employees, a better living environment. Romande Energie is also committed on a daily basis to offering high-quality services and guaranteeing a reliable supply, as close as possible to its customers’ expectations, in order to support them in the energy transition and the decarbonisation of French-speaking Switzerland.
Romande Energie is always on the lookout for innovative solutions to help decarbonise Switzerland. Thanks to its investment in the insolagrin pilot project in Conthey, it can contribute its expertise as an energy producer and become a key player in agrivoltaics by helping to develop alternative infrastructures.
For more information on the Romande Energie Group, visit: www.romande-energie.ch
Good food, a healthy environment: as the Swiss government’s competence center for research and development in agriculture, food and the environment, Agroscope develops solutions for sustainable agriculture and the food industry. Affiliated to the Federal Office for Agriculture, Agroscope is spread across several sites throughout Switzerland. Research is conducted along the entire value chain of the agriculture and food sector, from farm to fork. Research areas include plants, animals, food, the environment and competition. With its systemic research, Agroscope makes an important contribution to competitive and sustainable agriculture, healthy nutrition with high-quality foodstuffs and an intact environment, for the benefit of society, decision-makers and practitioners.
Swiss berry production has risen steadily in recent years. Advances in cultivation techniques have largely contributed to this development, as has the improvement in fruit quality. To face up to the various challenges of the future, production techniques need to be optimised to better meet the demands of consumers and growers, as well as sustainability criteria. New approaches are being developed and tested within the ‘Berries and medicinal plants’ group to reduce residues on fruit, enhance their taste and nutritional quality and increase berry diversity. In addition, the optimisation of production techniques aims to improve crop profitability and resource efficiency (water, nutrients, energy), while taking climate change into account. The insolagrin solution is therefore part of the optimisation of sheltered berry production systems and aims to increase their resilience in the face of climate change. The main agronomic objective of the Conthey insolagrin pilot project is to demonstrate that the dynamic shading provided by THEIA panels can improve the yield and quality of berries during summer heat waves, while producing electricity.
For more information on Agroscope, visit: www.agroscope.ch