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Romande Energie conclut un PPA avec Denner pour la production de sa nouvelle installation agrivoltaïque

Press Release Morges, 18 April 2024

Une première pour Romande Energie
Romande Energie conclut un PPA avec Denner pour la production de sa nouvelle installation agrivoltaïque

Romande Energie poursuit ses efforts d’innovation en contractualisant pour la première fois un contrat PPA – power purchase agreement – avec Denner sur la prochaine installation agrivoltaïque de l’énergéticien utilisant la technologie Insolight. Située à Conthey (Valais), celle-ci protègera les cultures de baies contre les intempéries tout en produisant de l’énergie. Les kWh solaires produits seront revendus directement au distributeur suisse qui consommera cette énergie verte et locale sur ses sites.

Forte d’une première expérience réussie à Conthey avec Agroscope et le développeur de la technologie agrivoltaïque Insolight, Romande Energie réitère en investissant dans un nouveau projet agrivoltaïque. Cette nouvelle infrastructure solaire protègera dans un premier temps environ 3’700 m2 de cultures de fraises et de framboises tout en produisant, à terme, environ 600 MWh/an, soit l’équivalent de la consommation de 240 ménages.

Premier PPA – power purchase agreement – pour Romande Energie

Le PPA est un contrat de fourniture d’électricité de longue durée entre un consommateur et un producteur d’énergie. Grâce à celui-ci, d’ici mi-2025, Romande Energie alimentera les différents sites de Denner avec l’énergie agrivoltaïque de ce nouveau projet. En effet, la totalité de la production de cette nouvelle installation sera revendue à la chaîne de distribution à travers un contrat PPA.

Les avantages de ce modèle d’affaire

Dans un contexte incertain en matière de prix du kWh, un PPA permet de garantir une stabilité pour le consommateur en sécurisant une partie de son approvisionnement électrique avec une énergie 100% renouvelable et provenant de sites de production dédiés, et ainsi un tarif stable sur plusieurs années. Dans le cas présent, ce partenariat soutient également Denner dans sa transition énergétique et la réduction de son bilan carbone.

C’est également un moyen pour les consommateurs d’électricité tels que Denner, de soutenir et de favoriser le développement de projets indigènes, durables et innovants.

« Ce projet nous permet de contribuer aux objectifs de la Stratégie énergétique 2050. Nous souhaitons promouvoir la production d’énergie renouvelable et sommes ravis de nous engager avec Romande Energie dans cette installation agrivoltaïque »

affirme Adrian Bodmer, CEO a.i. de Denner.

« Cette collaboration entre Romande Energie, Denner et Insolight démontre l’existence d’une solution vertueuse pour soutenir l’agriculture et les énergies renouvelables en Suisse. »

Laurent Coulot, CEO et cofondateur d’Insolight

Insolight, grâce à son partenariat avec le groupe Migros a amené Denner dans ce projet pour le premier PPA de Romande Energie.

Les ambitions de Romande Energie

Dans un contexte antinomique où la crise climatique pousse à une forte électrification de notre société et de nos usages, la crise énergétique nous rappelle que l’énergie est précieuse et Romande Energie ambitionne de faire de la Suisse romande la première région décarbonée de Suisse, en accompagnant ses clients dans leur propre transition énergétique et en développant son offre en matière de production d’énergie renouvelable indigène. Romande Energie aspire désormais à déployer ce modèle d’affaires sur d’autres sites de production d’électricité renouvelable.

German , English , French

Contact

Michèle Cassani
Porte-parole du Groupe Romande Energie
+41 (0)21 802 95 67
michele.cassani@romande-energie.ch

Service médias Denner
+41 (0)44 455 15 56
medien@denner.ch

Kalina Koleva
Communication Insolight
info@insolight.ch

Le Groupe Romande Energie en bref

Énergéticien multi-services et premier fournisseur d’électricité en Suisse romande, le Groupe Romande Energie propose à ses clients une large gamme de solutions durables qui contribuent à réduire les émissions de CO2. Parmi celles-ci, un accompagnement sur mesure pour produire sa propre énergie et des produits et services visant à améliorer l’efficience énergétique tout en encourageant la sobriété. Romande Energie ambitionne de faire de la Suisse romande la première région décarbonée du pays. L’entreprise investit de manière constante et significative pour augmenter son parc de production d’énergie locale et renouvelable. Avec ses centrales solaires, hydrauliques et de biomasse, ses nombreux réseaux de chauffage à distance ainsi que ses projets géothermiques et éoliens, elle tient cet engagement et distribue toujours plus d’énergie renouvelable à ses clients. Romande Energie se positionne en véritable partenaire d’une société respectueuse de l’environnement, des individus et d’une économie pérenne. Accompagner les Romands vers un avenir durable est au cœur même de sa raison d’être.

Pour plus d’informations sur le Groupe Romande Energie, rendez-vous sur :
www.romande-energie.ch

À PROPOS D’INSOLIGHT
Fondée à Lausanne (CH) en 2015 par Laurent Coulot (CEO), Mathieu Ackermann (CTO) & Florian Gerlich (Product Architect), Insolight est un fournisseur de solutions agrivoltaïques. Grâce à une infrastructure unique, la solution insolagrin permet à la fois la production agricole et la production d’électricité sur un même terrain. Plus qu’une installation solaire, insolagrin est donc un nouvel outil pour les agriculteurs. Le contrôle de la transmission de la lumière permet aux agriculteurs d’optimiser la croissance des cultures au fil des saisons et des changements climatiques. Notre équipe est en mission pour fournir une solution qui peut avoir un impact global sur les secteurs de l’énergie et de l’agriculture. Insolight a développé un programme de partenariat global auquel Migros, la Fondation SwissRe et Fruits Rouges & Co ont déjà adhéré.

Insolight, Romande Energie and Agroscope share initial results of agrivoltaic pilot

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.

You can find more information about the pilot project in the press kit. Press release in French.

Contacts

Insolight :
Kalina Koleva, Marketing & Communications Manager, info@insolight.ch

Romande Energie :
Anna Rast, Communications Officer, anna.rast@romande-energie.ch

Agroscope :
Media Service, + 41 58 466 88 62, info@agroscope.admin.ch

About Insolight

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

About Agroscope

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

First insolagrin agrivoltaic installation at scale completed

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT OUR 2600𝗺² AGRIVOLTAIC INSTALLATION AT bioschmid gmbh IS FULLY OPERATIONAL

Our dynamic agrivoltaic solution insolagrin has been deployed at bioschmid GmbH in the canton Luzern. A joint installation with Monika and Heinz Schmid, who run organic farming operations, it is part of a project in which three different Agrivoltaic systems are being tested in comparison with a control area. After the construction phase in 2023, the Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope Conthey (agronomic part) and the Bern University of Applied Sciences (PV part) will conduct research and accompany the project for three years. The pilot plant, which was launched by bioschmid gmbh, is supported by the pilot and demonstration programme of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, the Canton of Lucerne (Swisslos), the Fondation sur la Croix, the Foundation Valery and other foundations, as well as the system suppliers involved.

This novel installation is a major step towards the energy transition in Switzerland as it shows that there are available and immediately scalable innovative solutions to protect crops, and produce food and green energy on the same land. It thus comes at the right time following the positive outcome of the Climate and Innovation Act voted by Swiss citizens on the 18th June 2023.

The plant is built over an area of 2600 m² of raspberries and is expected to produce around 190 MWh of electricity per year in addition to the raspberry yield.

insolagrin – the agronomic tool to protect crops and produce solar energy at the same time – supports growers in the transition to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural production. It offers a replacement to protective plastic tunnels and a choice to consumers of energy-positive fruits.

Press Release in German and French.

insolagrin @ bioschmid agrivoltaic installation,
Canton Luzern

Press Contacts:

Insolight: Kalina Koleva, info@insolight.ch

ABOUT INSOLIGHT

Founded in Lausanne (CH) in 2015 by Laurent Coulot (CEO), Mathieu Ackermann (CTO) & Florian Gerlich (Product Architect), Insolight is bringing to market insolagrin – a dynamic agrivoltaic solution. With a single infrastructure, insolagrin enables both agricultural and electricity production on the same land. The system provides protection for the crops and controls light transmission to plants through dynamic shading while harvesting excess light into electricity.

By replacing plastic tunnels, the market opportunity is sizable: berries alone represent more than 200 GW p in Europe. Our team is on a mission to deliver a solution that can impact globally both the energy and agriculture sectors. Insolight has developed a Global Partnership Program which Migros, SwissRe Foundation and Fruits Rouges & Co have already joined.

Insolight Closes a New Financing Round

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT INSOLIGHT SUCCESSFULLY CLOSED A NEW FINANCING ROUND OF CHF 4.85 MIO TO ACCELERATE DEPLOYMENTS’ SCALE-UP AND COMMERCIAL ROLL-OUT

This round brings reinforcement to Insolight’s shareholding structure with lead investor Demeter, a major European venture capital player in agritech and cleantech industries, and Smart Energy Innovation Fund, the Corporate Venture Capital Fund of Energie 360°, a Zurich-based sustainable energy and mobility service provider. They were joined by the existing investors Verve Ventures and Zürcher Kantonalbank, who are continuously supporting the company’s growth.

The funds are instrumental to deploy Insolight’s first large-scale insolagrin installations (hectare size / megawatts scale), serving first berry growers in Switzerland and France. The company then aims to replicate those first agrivoltaic installations globally and increase the number of targeted crops. The round will also support the commercial scale-up and the development of the existing projects’ pipeline, targeting multiple tens of millions of Euros in the next two years.

Press Contacts:

Insolight: Laurent Coulot, info@insolight.ch

Demeter Investment Managers: Cyrille Cabaret, cyrille.cabaret@demeter-im.com

Energie 360°: Michael Walser, kommunikation@energie360.ch

ABOUT DEMETER INVESTMENT MANAGERS

Demeter is a major European player in venture capital, private equity and infrastructure for the energy and ecological transition. Its funds invest from €1m to €30m to support companies in the sector at all stages of their development: innovative start-ups, small and mid-cap companies, as well as infrastructure projects. The Demeter team counts 37 people based in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Metz, Madrid, and Düsseldorf, manages €1.2bn and has completed 200 investments over 17 years.

ABOUT SMART ENERGY INNOVATION FUND AG

The Smart Energy Innovation Fund is the corporate venture capital fund from Energie 360°. It helps start-ups in the areas of cleantech, energy, smart cities and mobility to rapidly become established on the market and to grow sustainably. The commitment of the Smart Energy Innovation Fund is focused not only on investments, but also on company founders. They benefit from the expertise, personal dedication and top-class network of the investment committee. The experts from the Smart Energy Innovation Fund assist the start-ups with all aspects of business and market development.

ABOUT ZÜRCHER KANTONALBANK

Zürcher Kantonalbank is a leading universal bank in the Zurich economic area with Swiss roots and international reach. It is an independent, incorporated public-law institution of the Canton of Zurich and has received top ratings from the rating agencies Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch (AAA/Aaa). With more than 5,000 employees, Zürcher Kantonalbank offers its clients a comprehensive range of products and services. The bank’s core activities include financing businesses, asset and wealth management, trading, capital market transactions, deposits, payment transactions and the card business. Zürcher Kantonalbank provides clients and distribution partners with a comprehensive range of investment and retirement provision products and services.

ABOUT INSOLIGHT

Founded in Lausanne (CH) in 2015 by Laurent Coulot (CEO), Mathieu Ackermann (CTO) & Florian Gerlich (Product Architect), Insolight is bringing to market insolagrin – a dynamic agrivoltaic solution. With a single infrastructure, insolagrin enables both agricultural and electricity production on the same land. The system provides protection for the crops and controls light transmission to plants through dynamic shading while harvesting excess light into electricity. By replacing plastic tunnels, the market opportunity is sizable: berries alone represent more than 200 GW p in Europe. Our team is on a mission to deliver a solution that can impact globally both the energy and agriculture sectors. Insolight has developed a Global Partnership Program which Migros and SwissRe Foundation have already joined.

World Premiere: Insolagrin Conthey, the New Agrivoltaic Solution is Now Operational

 Press Release | 7 October 2021 

Is it possible to feed citizens and the grid at the same time? The construction of insolagrin Conthey in Valais (Switzerland), a highly innovative solar power plant, provides some elements of answer. This is the first time – worldwide – that this new agrivoltaic technology has been deployed on a large-scale pilot. The first raspberries from the project were harvested in late summer, launching a four-year program to analyze and optimize agricultural and electrical yields. These results could pave the way for large-scale, unprecedented solar deployments, bringing a new solution without additional land take.

The pilot project, which was created by the three partners Insolight, Romande Energie and Agroscope, is operational at the Agroscope site in Conthey (VS) since July 2021. The installation, which is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), covers an area of 165m2 and will be used for the growth of raspberries – and strawberries from 2022 onwards – under cover in pots. Insolight develops and supplies the solar module technology and the light control system. Agroscope studies plant physiology, yields and crop quality. Romande Energie built the installation and supervises the energy production. Over the next four years, agricultural and electrical yield data will be collected and analyzed to optimize the performance of the installation.

Revolutionary Swiss solar technology

This solution – developed by Swiss start-up Insolight – incorporates innovative translucent solar modules. Based on optical micro-tracking technology, they offer a dynamic light adjustment while maintaining an interesting electrical yield. More than a simple photovoltaic installation, it is a tool for farmers, which allows to adjust the light transmitted to the crops. This makes it possible to optimize the photosynthesis of the plants during the seasons, while converting the excess light into electricity.

Research to optimize a unique agrivoltaic solution

The pilot plant was developed to replace and improve the protection used over crops against weather conditions, while producing energy at the same time. It allows Agroscope to study the impact of light conditions on crop development. The aim is to use this agronomic data to adjust the control algorithm of the photovoltaic modules, irrigation, and nutrient supply according to the plant species, stage of development and solar irradiance. At the same time, Romande Energie

will evaluate the solar electricity production of the installation during the four years of the project. The infrastructure will also be further optimized according to the agricultural exploitation needs.

This research should make it possible to produce solar energy while maintaining, or even increasing, the quantity and quality of the fruit harvested under the solar modules.

Convincing additional solar potential on roofs 

The potential for agrivoltaic structures that benefit both crops and electricity production is significant. In Switzerland, nearly 4,600 hectares could be considered, representing a power of 5 gigawatt-peak, equivalent to the consumption of 800’000 to 1’200’000 households. The ambition is to bring a new solution for large-scale photovoltaic deployments, without additional impact on land and reducing the carbon footprint of crops. In this respect, an important signal was sent by the Federation of Migros Cooperatives which decided to support the project.

This is a first step towards the future of energy-positive crops, offering sustainable development perspectives for the food and energy sectors.

The project is supported by the pilot and demonstration program of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.

More information on the pilot project can be found in the flyer attached to this press release (Flyer Pilot insolagrin Conthey).

Download here the visuals of the project, with the copyright © Insolight for any use.

Contacts

Insolight:

Laurent Coulot, CEO and co-founder, info@insolight.ch

Romande Energie:
Caroline Monod, Communications Advisor, +41 21 802 95 78, caroline.monod@romande-energie.ch

Agroscope:
Media Service, + 41 58 466 88 62, info@agroscope.admin.ch

About Insolight

A startup based in Lausanne, Switzerland, Insolight is developing a new generation of solar modules, opening new deployment opportunities in a high-growth solar market. The patented technology is based on an optical concentration system combining high efficiency and translucency. Insolight focuses on the design and the sale of related products and services, whilst the module manufacturing is outsourced to an assembly company (currently in Switzerland).

Insolight is seeing strong market traction in agrivoltaics, where the adjustable translucency of the THEIA modules offers a key differentiation compared to conventional modules. The aim is to install the solar modules over crops to optimise agricultural production whilst generating electricity.

In July 2020 Insolight closed a Series A (CHF 5 million) financing round for installing the first 1,000 modules, led by Verve Ventures and other Swiss-based investors. The team now consists of more than 15 individuals with a strong expertise in R&D and sales. The company’s long-term goals are to open up new lands for the deployment of photovoltaics and achieve a reduction in the number of megatons of CO2 emitted.

For more information on the Insolight, please visit: www.insolight.ch

About the Romande Energie Group

A key power producer and the number-one electricity supplier in French-speaking Switzerland, the Romande Energie Group offers numerous sustainable solutions in fields ranging from power distribution and generation to energy services, energy efficiency and electromobility.

Working in tandem with customers, investors and partners, the Group aims to contribute to a better quality of life, through its own 100%-renewable production, its innovative services and its Corporate Social Responsibility policy. Romande Energie is also committed to providing high-quality services and ensuring reliable day-to-day provision, thereby meeting the expectations of its customers and supporting French-speaking Switzerland during the transition to a decarbonised energy system.

Romande Energie is always in search of innovative solutions that support decarbonisation in Switzerland. Through its investment in the insolagrin pilot project in Conthey, the Group provides expertise as an energy producer and serves as a key contact for agrivoltaics, contributing to the boom in alternative infrastructures.

For more information on the Romande Energie Group, go to: www.romande-energie.ch

About Agroscope

Good food, healthy environment: as the Swiss federal centre of excellence for research and development in the field of agriculture, food and the environment, Agroscope develops solutions for the benefit of a sustainable agriculture and food sector. Affiliated with the Federal Office for Agriculture, Agroscope is spread out over a number of sites across the whole of Switzerland. Research is conducted along the entire value chain of the agriculture and food sector, from farm to fork.

Swiss berry production has been rising steadily in recent years. Advances in growing techniques have contributed greatly to this trend, as well as to an improvement in fruit quality. To face the various challenges of the future, production techniques must be optimised in order better to respond to the demands of consumers and producers and to meet sustainability criteria. The ‘Berries and Medicinal Plants’ Research Group develops and tests new approaches for reducing residues on fruits, promoting their eating and nutritional quality and increasing the diversity of the berries. In addition, the optimisation of production techniques aims to improve crop profitability and resource efficiency (water, nutrients, energy) whilst bearing in mind climate change.

For more information on Agroscope, please visit: www.agroscope.chhttps://agroscope.ch

About Migros

With an annual turnover of CHF 29.9 billion (2020), the Migros Group is Switzerland’s largest retailer and the country’s largest private employer, employing around 100,000 people.

Organized in ten regional cooperatives, more than two million members own Migros. The cooperatives are responsible for the core business of the group: retailing. In addition, the Migros Group has its own industrial companies, various trading companies and travel agencies as well as Migros Bank.

Migros alone distributes 20% of the Swiss agricultural production. The country’s largest agricultural customer is also the world’s most sustainable retailer (ISS-Oekom ranking 2019), thanks to its sustainability program that covers the entire value chain.

For more information on Migros:

Migros Media Service – tel. 058 570 38 38/ mail: media@migros.ch

Launch of a Multi-Functional Pilot Agrivoltaic Installation by Insolight, Romande Energie and Agroscope

Press Release | July 1, 2021

Insolight and its partners Romande Energie and Agroscope will be building a highly innovative solar installation on Agroscope’s Conthey site in the canton of Valais with the aim of testing a new agrivoltaic solution (insolagrin). This pilot project was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (OFEN). The insolagrin solution, which proposes the replacement of the protective tunnels used in farming, combines agriculture with the production of renewable energy. At the same time, the pilot project aims to measure the potentially positive impact of the installation on agricultural yield whilst ensuring satisfactory energy production. Significant results would pave the way for unprecedented solar deployment, with no additional footprint on the land.

Designed by the Renens-based startup Insolight, the insolagrin agrivoltaic system incorporates THEIA (Translucency & High Efficiency in Agrivoltaics) solar modules offering a revolutionary combination of translucency and high electrical efficiency. Combining two usage modes based on Insolight’s optical micro-tracking technology, these modules focus light on high-efficiency solar cells. When aligned, the optical system can generate energy (E-MODE), but it is also possible to unalign it to ‘leak’ the light (MLT-MODE). The solar modules therefore act like a ‘smart’ shade adjusting the amount of light they let through. They enable the optimisation of plant photosynthesis over the seasons and help reduce the negative impact of hot summer temperatures on the yield and quality of agricultural products, whilst recovering the remainder of the light in the form of electricity.

From July 2021, these solar modules will be installed over strawberry and raspberry crops at Agroscope’s experimental centre in Conthey as replacements for protective polytunnels. Bringing together members from Insolight, Romande Energie and Agroscope, the project team aims to demonstrate that it is possible to efficiently combine agricultural production and electricity generation on the same site, using a dual-purpose agricultural and photovoltaic structure. The results collected will also help to assess the cost-efficiency of this type of installation and to clarify its financial prospects. The solution backed by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (OFEN) will be tested for four years on a surface area of 165m2, designed to provide meaningful results allowing future large-scale deployments to be planned.

“The cultivation of berries and small fruits under cover allows fruit yields and quality to be improved whilst reducing pressure from a majority of fungal diseases” commented Bastien Christ, Head of the ‘Berries and Medicinal Plants’ Research Group at Agroscope. “This agrivoltaic structure was created with the aim of replacing and improving the protective and shading functions of the umbrella tunnels we use over strawberry and raspberry crops, without obstructing agricultural activity.”

New prospects for the berry sector and solar energy

Switzerland’s energy strategy envisages achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Swissolar considers a massive expansion of solar energy to be the only solution for achieving these objectives1. It is estimated that at least 1.5 GWp will have to be added per year (30 GWp by 2050), i.e. four to five times the level of current deployment. Combining solar energy generation with the agricultural use of land, agrivoltaics represents a burgeoning trend in Europe which could take off in Switzerland if the pilot project confirms the expectations of its promoters.

Insolight’s new-generation photovoltaic technology differs from conventional opaque rooftop solar panels. Their solution becomes an agricultural tool for the benefit of plants: “Dynamically adjusting the light transmitted to the plants paves the way for increased protection from climate variations and possible increases in crop yields thanks to the matching of the light to the needs of the plants and the lowering of the temperature during heat waves via the shading effect” explained Mr. Christ.

Through its focus on crops requiring protective structures (polytunnels or greenhouses), the insolagrin solar installation does double duty by replacing these existing structures. It also allows us to avoid the use of plastics and to optimise land use.

“If the results obtained are significant, this innovation could have great potential. Replacing existing structures with solar structures in agricultural areas would complement rooftop solar deployment, and thus hasten the pace of decarbonisation in Switzerland” explained Martial Genolet, Photovoltaic Business Manager at Romande Energie.

The insolagrin solution could ultimately lead to an economic gain, thanks to its simultaneous optimisation of agricultural production and energy generation. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy’s pilot and demonstration programme.

Contacts

Insolight :
Laurent Coulot, CEO and co-founder, info@insolight.ch

Romande Energie :
Caroline Monod, Communication Consultant, +41 21 802 95 78,
caroline.monod@romande-energie.ch

Agroscope :
Bastien Christ, Head of the ‘Berries and Medicinal Plants’ Research Group,
+ 41 58 466 88 62, info@agroscope.admin.ch

About Insolight

A startup based in Lausanne, Switzerland, Insolight is developing a new generation of solar modules, opening up new deployment opportunities in a high-growth solar market. The patented technology is based on an optical concentration system combining high efficiency and translucency. Insolight focuses on the design and the sale of related products and services, whilst the manufacture of the modules is outsourced to an assembly company (currently in Switzerland).

Insolight has obtained various technical validations in recent years. In 2016, Fraunhofer ISE confirmed a record 36% efficiency on a laboratory mini module. In 2018, the module was validated on a rooftop installation by IES-UPM (Solar Energy Institute of the Polytechnic University of Madrid) at 29%. In September 2019, the company was awarded the H2020 HIPERION project (€ 10.6 million, in consortium) to construct a pilot assembly line.

Insolight is seeing strong market traction in agrivoltaics, where the adjustable translucency of the THEIA modules offers a key differentiation with respect to conventional modules. Based on high-efficiency silicon solar cells (20% under CSTC), these modules allow the amount of transmitted light to be adjusted whilst recovering the excess in the form of electricity. The aim is therefore to install the solar modules over crops in order to optimise agricultural production whilst generating electricity. The insolagrin solution, which includes the modules and their control, thus has strong potential for replacing protective growing tunnels or greenhouse shading systems.

In July 2020 Insolight closed a Series A (CHF 5 million) financing round for placing the first 1,000 modules on the market, led by Investiere (Verve Capital) and other investors based in Switzerland. At present, the team consists of more than 15 individuals with a strong expertise in R&D and sales, as well as 15 industrial partners. The company’s long-term goals are to open up new areas for the deployment of photovoltaics and to help achieve a reduction in the number of megatonnes of CO2 emitted.

For more information on Insolight, go to: www.insolight.ch

The Romande Energie Group in a nutshell

A key power producer and the number-one electricity supplier in French-speaking Switzerland, the Romand Energie Group offers numerous sustainable solutions in fields ranging from power distribution and generation to energy services, energy efficiency and electromobility.

Working in tandem with customers, investors and partners, the Group aims to contribute to a better quality of life, through its own 100%-renewable production, its innovative services and its Corporate Social Responsibility policy. Romande Energie is also committed to providing high-quality services and ensuring reliable day-to-day provision, thereby meeting the expectations of its customers and supporting French-speaking Switzerland during the transition to a decarbonised energy system.

Romande Energie is always in search of innovative solutions that support decarbonisation in Switzerland. Through its investment in the insolagrin pilot project in Conthey, the Group provides expertise as an energy producer and serves as a key contact for agrivoltaics, contributing to the boom in alternative infrastructures.

For more information on the Romande Energie Group, go to: www.romande-energie.ch

About Agroscope

Good food, healthy environment: as the Swiss federal centre of excellence for research and development in the field of agriculture, food and the environment, Agroscope develops Switzerland. Research is conducted along the entire value chain of the agriculture and food sector, from farm to fork. Fields of research include plants, animals, food, the environment and competition. With its systemic research, Agroscope makes an important contribution to a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector and to a healthy diet with high-quality foodstuffs and an intact environment, for the benefit of society, decisionmakers and practitioners.

Swiss berry production has been rising steadily in recent years. Advances in growing techniques have contributed greatly to this trend, as well as to an improvement in fruit quality. To face the various challenges of the future, production techniques must be optimised in order better to respond to the demands of consumers and producers and to meet sustainability criteria. The ‘Berries and Medicinal Plants’ Research Group develops and tests new approaches for reducing residues on fruits, promoting their eating and nutritional quality and increasing the diversity of the berries. In addition, the optimisation of production techniques aims to improve crop profitability and resource efficiency (water, nutrients, energy) whilst bearing in mind climate change. The insolagrin solution is therefore part of the optimisation of under-cover small-fruit and 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 small fruits during summer heat waves, whilst generating electricity.

For more information on Agroscope, go to: www.agroscope.ch