Visiting the Largest Functioning AgroPhotovoltaic Plant in India

(from l to r): P. N. Parekh (GIPCL), P. S. Goyal (GIPCL), P. Mohanty (IGEF-SO), E. Sprung (IGEF-SO), S. Pulipaka (NSEFI), P. R. Mehta (NSEFI), K. D. Mevada (AAU), M. Vorast (Fraunhofer ISE)

On 24 February 2020, the Indo-German Energy Forum Support Office (IGEF-SO) together with Mr. Max Vorast from Fraunhofer ISE and Chairman Shri Pranav Mehta and CEO Mr. Subrahmanyam Pulipaka from the National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI), visited the 1MW AgroPV plant. Under the direction of researchers from Anand Agricultural University (AAU), the state-owned Gujarat Industries Power Company Limited (GIPCL) has had the model plant built on 2.5 hectares of land in the village of Amrol in the state of Gujarat on the basis of an initiative by Premier Modi in 2015. 

Gujarat Industries Power Company Limited (GIPCL) took upon the project with the objective to use existing barren land for agricultural purposes in combination with solar power production. Under the guidance of researchers from the Anand Agriculture University (AAU), GIPCL has constructed and has been cultivating a range of local field crops in the interspace and below solar panels on a trial basis. Three aspects were prioritised:

  1. Dual-use of land for both power generation and agriculture/food production
  2. Water conservation in terms of reusing water for both cleaning the PV panels and watering crops
  3. Sustainable farming, realised through the use of as little agrochemicals as possible.

The AgroPV plant consists of 310W poly-crystalline PV modules. As a trial project, different configurations of PV arrays were installed with different gaps between the panels (0,100 and 250mm). The plant's capacity is 1MW whereby the generated power is directly fed into the rural feeder, providing electricity to 12 surrounding villages. The land is equipped with a water-efficient drip irrigation system that is connected with the water used for cleaning the panels. So far, over 40 crops have been sown to assess the feasibility of cultivation in the shade and the available sunlight under the panels. During the tour,  the visitors could observe flourishing brinjals, tomatoes and potatoes.

The project further placed focus on active collaboration between engineers, researchers and farmers in order to ensure the most effective use of land, power production and enabling hassle-free agricultural activities, such as the usage of tractors. For this purpose, local farmers who would potentially be working on the land were also involved in designing the mounting structure and the array of the modules.

The plant shows how the dual use of land can allow both power generation and agriculture. By reusing water both for cleaning the solar modules and for irrigating the plants, the valuable resource can be used more efficiently. Higher yields are expected due to the partial shading of the plants. International scientific studies have shown that in some plants the yield of tomatoes, for example, has been doubled. This technology heralds a promising path for India’s ambitious target of scaling up 20.000MW of grid-connected solar to 100.000MW by 2022 without exhausting limited available land. On behalf of BMZ, KFW can offer low-interest loans for the construction of such plants. The Indian government is highly interested in Germany's research results, which are exchanged in Subgroup II.

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