Taking advantage of northern and central Chile’s great solar radiation potential, pilot projects using agrophotovoltaic technology have been implemented with positive results: greater efficiency in the use of the land and less water required for the crops.
Source: Fraunhofer Chile
Chile’s well-known reputation as one of the countries with the greatest potential for the development of solar energy, due to the high levels of solar radiation in the north and center of the country, has positioned it as one of the industry’s most important poles and one of the leading countries in this field, both regionally and globally.
This is why the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) and its offices in Chile chose the El Monte, Curacaví and Lampa communities in the Santiago Metropolitan Region to install Latin America’s first three pilot agrophotovoltaic (APV) systems, following a successful experience in Europe. This technology involves planting crops beneath a photovoltaic solar system and, according to a report released by Fraunhofer in June, increases the efficiency of land use by 60%.
The report highlights the potential of northern and central Chile for the development of this technology, due to the importance of agriculture in the area. The impacts of water scarcity can, for example, be mitigated thanks to the shade provided by the PV system, reducing the radiation reaching the crops and, therefore, the amount of water they require. It is, in addition, possible that crops which have problems growing in intense sunlight can be cultivated using this new method.
The three pilot projects in Chile, which received financial support from the Santiago Regional Government, sought to identify the types of crops that would benefit most from this system. Using sensors, data such as solar radiation, humidity and soil temperature could be gathered and experiments with different crops such as broccoli, cauliflower and herbs were carried out. The technology was also tested in different conditions: with professional methods, using the energy for cleaning, packing and other operational processes; on a small scale at a family farm; and in a more remote area with less infrastructure and no connection to the regular electricity grid.
Boost to renewable energies
According to the report by the German company, the results have been positive both in terms of the crops and the efficiency of the PV systems so the pilot study will be extended for a further three years. Chile stands out for its development of non-conventional renewable energies which is reflected not only in its public policies and long-term plans, such as its Energy Agenda 2050 and the recently published Energy Route 2018-2022, but also in the constant support provided by public institutions which is also reinforced by the country's solid economic framework.
There is, as a result, a long-term plan that involves other types of crops in a bid to expand the range of products with which this technology will be tested. The energy generated by the PV system can be used for typical agricultural tasks such as pumping water, desalination or cold chains as well as to supply electricity to the surrounding community.
“At the beginning of the project, there was a transfer of technology and know-how from Germany to Chile. Now the transfer is on the same level in both directions. Fraunhofer ISE is benefitting from the new experiments with APV in Chile and vice versa,” said Stephan Schindele, head of the agrophotovoltaic project at Fraunhofer ISE.
Chile stands out as a pole for investment in renewable energies. New trends like agrophotovoltaics are developed here for their subsequent expansion to the rest of the world. Do you have a project you would like to start in Chile? Contact us and we will help you implement it.