Welcome to Solar Power Portal’s day two coverage of Solar & Storage Live 2023, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham over 17-19 October. Our editorial team will be reporting live from the event, bringing you all the insight, news and views from the show floor.
‘Agrivoltaics can boost land productivity by 160%,’ says Schletter
“Agrivoltaics can increase productivity of the land by up to 160%,” Tilman Elsner, deputy head of global engineering at Schletter, said in his day two opening remarks.
According to Elsner, agrivoltaics can boost land productivity by combining 80% efficiency through solar generation and 80% agricultural use. This is an interesting take on the land issue debate, particularly with reports stating that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to restrict solar installations on land due to food security.
The use of agrivoltaics can also optimise both food production and solar PV technology. On this, Elsner said: “Sun-sensitive crops are protected by solar panels and the solar stops some water from evaporating in the hot sun. Crops then create a cool environment for solar panels to operate in.
“The result means less energy and water is used overall.”
Another interesting take from the opening remarks was the potential of using the technology for power generation in the UK.
Touching on this, Elsner said: “If 10,000 farms in the UK [5% of all] installed a 2MWp agriPV system each, totalling 20GWp, the corresponding power generation would result in 15TWh per year, totalling 5% of the UK’s demand in the best case.”
This shows the potential boost agrivoltaics can provide the UK – something that is crucial with land usage already becoming a prominent issue for the island nation.
Community engagement considered key for solar projects
“We won’t get very far with solar without community engagement,” Jess Dunning, director of Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, warned on the ‘Community-Based Approach to Solar Energy Engagement’ panel discussion today (18 October).
Community engagement continues to be a major part of a solar project’s lifecycle, in particular those involved with community energy. But one crucial aspect to note, which was mentioned on the panel discussion, is that community engagement can mean different things to different people.
Dunning added: “Engagement can mean lots of things. It can be knowing about project plans, helping the development through marketing, providing financial support and more.”
These all point to an important message, that ensuring community is involved with a project can not only increase local support, but can also upskill areas in the local vicinity.
Rebecca Windemer, community energy lead at Regen, highlighted two key opportunities for community energy and engagement: local authorities and businesses.
“Councils that are looking to boost their renewable assets can do so but collaborating with developers to put solar on council-owned land as well as council-owned buildings,” Windemer said.
“On the other hand, businesses that own buildings that have the potential for solar also have an opportunity for them to engage further with solar.”
Windemer concluded by discussing organised opposition groups that tend to form to prevent the development of solar projects.
“These organised opposition groups tend to spread misinformation about project sites. Therefore, there is an important role in consultations for myth busting by engaging with the general public,” Windemer added.
Recycled solar panels battles against reduced cost of new technology
“The market of selling reused panels is difficult as we are battling against the ever-reducing cost of new solar panels,” said Matthew Burnell, managing director of ReSolar during the ‘End-of-Life Solar PV Panel Decommissioning & Recycling’ panel.
Although one could argue this is a minimal issue currently, it is clear that as the UK and global solar industries continue to go from strength to strength, many solar panels will become outdated and need to be recycled or repurposed.
In particular, some of the early solar panels that were installed ten years ago could soon be entering their ‘end-of-life’ lifecycle. With this, recycling and repurposing becomes an option but, as Burnell stated, competing with lower-cost, more efficient solar panels could have a detrimental impact on the solar recycling industry.
Burnell argues that there is a good purpose for these panels. “I think the best use for these recycled solar panels is within community-based projects,” Burnell said.
Fellow panellist, Saurabh Saxena, solar PV repowering and revamping business lead at BayWa r.e, believes that increased transparency could be critical for the market.
“It is important for transparency with the recycling companies,” he said.
In a bid to support the recycled solar panel market, Burnell believes that a research-oriented Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project should be launched to help support the industry and provide further insight.