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Project name:

Innovative Agrophotovoltaics Structures Challenge

Status: Idea
Creation date: 29-07-2022

Project objectives:

Develop better ways to configure photovoltaic arrays on farm land to improve both agricultural and solar energy production on the same soil

Challenge Overview

A2A needs your help to improve current photovoltaic configurations to optimize solar energy generation in agricultural settings without compromising or competing with agricultural production. New commercial solutions are needed quickly, so we are looking for designs that can be implemented within 12-18 months. Up to 3 winners will share in a total prize purse of $30,000 (USD).

 

The need for clean energy production is clear. To meet 2050 Net Zero Emissions targets (IEA Global Energy Review 2021 - https://www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2021), renewable energy production has to increase quickly. Meeting these growth demands will require building many new photovoltaic (PV) plants — they need someplace to go where installation is quick, and start-up costs are affordable. Open areas are a great location, but this can put solar installations in competition with traditional agricultural uses.

As pressure increases to meet Net Zero Emissions targets, land use competition also increases. It’s a WIN-LOSE scenario — but it doesn’t have to be!

 

An emerging strategy is to co-locate photovoltaic arrays with traditional agricultural land uses, a strategy dubbed “dual-use farming” or agrophotovoltaics. In agrophotovoltaics, both solar energy and agricultural crops are produced in the same space. Crops (or livestock) are cultivated beneath or besides arrays of elevated solar panels. This relationship can actually improve farming yields, but the costs for installing elevated solar arrays are substantially higher than installing a solar array at ground level — 38% higher per kilowatt hour (kWh) according to a 2020 study (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2020.114737). 

 

Interested in re-thinking and improving the way PVs are currently done?  So is A2A - we are the biggest Italian life company promoting the sustainable growth of Italy, and guiding its ecological transition. A2A operates in the production, sale and distribution of gas and electricity, district heating, environmental services and the integrated water cycle while keeping the impact on the environment to a minimum.

The Challenge

A photovoltaic system today consists of several components: photovoltaic modules, field switchboard, wiring, inverter, measurement and protection systems. For this challenge, assume that the photovoltaic system is the set of photovoltaic modules that can be placed either in series (forming strings) or in parallel or both. The structure of the entire photovoltaic generator depends on different landscape characteristics of the site, which determine the width of the panels, the height of the center of rotation and the distance between rows in order to maximize the energy produced. 

 

Improving on the current technology means considering multiple factors:

  • Modularity: improved structures should be designed to have flexibility/modularity both in height and in width
  • Scalability: the concept should be scalable for different plant capacities / MWp
  • Minimum land occupancy: an ideal solution will allow machinery move in all directions
  • Neutrality: if a new solution requires the use of third-party trackers for PV modules, it should be “manufacturer neutral” 
  • Mechanical performance: any PV structure will have to withstand real world conditions, including wind load and extreme events
  • Structure and installation costs: a new solution needs to be more affordable than the current agrophotovoltaics structures without compromising stability

How do I win?

To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at minimum:

  • Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements
  • Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
  • Be scored higher than your competitors!

 

Eligible solutions must at a minimum outline how they meet these specifications:

  • Modularity: improved structures should be designed to have flexibility or scalability both in height and in width so they can be adapted to different settings. At the same time modularity should be designed to facilitate assembly and minimize installation time and cost.
  • Scalability: the concept should be scalable for different plant capacities / MWp
  • Minimum land occupancy: solution should allow machinery move in multiple directions
  • Neutrality: if a new solution requires the use of third-party trackers for PV modules, it should be “manufacturer neutral” so it can work with different tracker manufacturers
  • Mechanical performance: any PV structure will have to withstand real world conditions, including wind load and extreme events (hail, heavy rain, and eventually earthquakes). For the proposal consider sizing requirements for installations in Italy.
  • Structure and installation costs: currently, elevated agrophotovoltaics cost about 38% more per kWh than ground-level installations. A new solution needs to be more affordable without compromising stability. A budgetary evaluation of the structure cost must be included

Prize
WinnersAwardTotal 1st Prize$18,000$18,000 Runners Up (up to 2 winners) $6,000 $12,000 Total Prize Purse   $30,000

Based on the quality of the submissions, A2A may choose to reallocate the individual awards. In the unlikely case of no Winner and/or Runners Up, A2A  reserves the right to withhold the Prize amount. 

 
Contact / source: Innovative Agrophotovoltaics Structures Challenge | HeroX

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