States Must Define Standards to Overcome Challenges in Agrivoltaic Projects: IISD

The developer as a promoter and the farmer as partner model is beneficial to agrivoltaics


A recent report published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has listed specific business models that would help India cope with the challenges of implementing agrivoltaics.

Firstly, IISD recommends agrivoltaics jointly owned by the farmer and developer, while the second way is agrivoltaics solely owned by either party, and the third model is where the developer is the primary promoter and the farmer is the partner.

India has a total of 14,636.6 kW of installed agrivoltaics capacity that is in the pilot stages.

The report highlights the challenges faced by the country’s farmers and developers in availing the benefits of agrivoltaics and suggests specific models be followed.

According to the experts interviewed by IISD, the third model, with the developer as the primary promoter and the farmer as the partner, is best suited to the Indian context. However, it can be considered only for barren or uncultivated areas, either due to poor land productivity or state ownership of the land.

About 53% of the total land area in India is categorized as arid or semi-arid, while most of India’s solar power capacity is installed in similar regions with low levels of cropping intensity, indicating complete or partial land uncultivability.

Arid and semi-arid regions, along with peri-urban areas, are the most favorable geographies for agrivoltaics in India.

However, the report says these locations have to be closer to cities and towns with proximity to markets for high-value horticultural products, for successful agrivoltaics implementation.

Land-use & Tariff Regulations

The IISD report suggests that state governments introduce land-use regulations and classify the income from agricultural lands to recognize the full impact of agrivoltaics.

States must define clear standards for agrivoltaics to ensure project developers, governments, and lending institutions have a shared understanding of the criteria defining such projects.

Beyond the uniform ceiling tariff, the states must explore different market mechanisms to support agrivoltaics through creative tariff structures.

Technology & Other Factors

The report finds that while technological innovations like sun-tracking systems yielded promising results in agrivoltaics in the countries like China, Japan, and Germany, such tools are not included in conventional solar plants in India, given their high cost.

The report recommends the use of bifacial solar panels in Indian agrivoltaic pilots as they help reduce shading effects, increase power generation, and expand crop choices that are currently limited to a few in the country.

IISD also points to some promising solutions, like integrating rainwater harvesting structures with agrivoltaics. However, scaling up these solutions would need further research and peer learning, given the weather conditions in India.

While battery storage is one of the options to store the energy for later use, not all farmers can afford it, so IISD suggests there should be an alternative to this technology

Most agrivoltaic pilots announced under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) program in India are yet to begin growing mainstream crops like paddy and wheat. Paddy, wheat, and sugarcane account for over 40% of India’s gross cropped area.

The length of such crops that are the staple food in the Indian context reaches a certain height, so it becomes critical to plan the solar PV placement in such a way that power and crop production are not hindered.

The report also recommends considering the open-access way through which developers can sell the power directly from agrivoltaic projects to consumers at a mutually decided price.

Agrivoltaics in Industrialized Countries and India

China has been actively encouraging agrivoltaics by promoting the technology through PV poverty alleviation and power generation front-runner base programs.

Germany, France, and Japan are constantly updating the designs and standards to use the land for accommodating solar PV with agriculture, given the fluctuating weather conditions.

Agrivoltaics is an emerging area of innovation that industrialized countries like China, Japan, and Germany are pursuing to use land parcels for growing crops using the power generated from solar photovoltaics.

The three countries combined have a cumulative installed agrivoltaics capacity of approximately 2.5 GW, while Italy and France have advanced investments to implement agrivoltaics.

IISD pointed out that in the above countries, it was realized that integrating agrivoltaics with closed farming systems like greenhouses and conventional open farming systems was beneficial, given the diverse design options that change per the agriculture activity and weather.

IISD recommends that grid-connected agrivoltaics systems are likely more scalable than off-grid systems because the power produced is typically much higher than the demand within the system.

But, grid-connected renewable energy also requires adequate evacuation capacity and needs to be situated near substations to reduce losses. This area is yet to be explored in Indian agrivoltaics.


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