Achieving the climate targets requires the deployment of large-scale renewable energy. This will lay claim to our space both on land and at sea. Society is resisting the installation of solar panels on land where food can also be produced. That is why TNO, Vattenfall, Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (RVB), ERF, Hemus and Aeres Hogeschool have joined forces in the Symbizon project in which this consortium is investigating the combination of a solar energy park with strip farming in order to obtain new knowledge and insights for efficient land use. This initiative originated within the National Consortium Solar in Landscape.
When constructing solar parks, it is important to take into account the impact on our living environment and on the use of farmland. This is why energy companies and research institutes are developing concepts that make it possible to combine energy production and forms of farming that also contribute to agricultural biodiversity.
The aim of the Symbizon project is to show that a smart combination of solar panels and strip farming will keep the land intact for food production, improve the ecological properties and, at the same time, create a positive business case for the farmer.
The combination of solar panels and agriculture means that fewer solar panels will be installed per hectare than in regular solar parks. A higher yield per solar panel is therefore necessary. That is why this project is studying the use of bifacial solar panels and a solar tracking system. At a test location to be determined, made available by the RVB, these panels will be placed in a field where various crops for organic agriculture will be grown in separate strips.
The consortium is developing and testing a solar tracking algorithm that monitors, for example, crop yield, energy yield, herb strip effect, weather forecast, energy price and soil conditions, and optimises them where possible. The effect of the sun tracking system on crop yield, diseases and ease of use for the farmer will also be measured.
The consortium received a TKI Urban Energy subsidy of € 400,000 for the 4-year Symbizon project.
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In order to achieve the climate targets and meet future sustainable energy needs, it is necessary to further accelerate the initiated energy transition. According to TNO, in 2050 we will need about 50 times as much solar energy. This means that we will need a total surface area of up to 1,000 km2 to generate solar energy. This is about as much as the entire IJsselmeer lake (1,133 km2).
TNO conducts independent and internationally leading research and stands for an agenda-setting, initiating and supporting role for government, industry and NGOs. TNO's innovation programmes tie in with the energy agenda and the coalition agreement with the aim of accelerating the energy transition and strengthening the competitive position of Dutch companies.
Vattenfall is a leading European energy company, which has been electrifying industry, supplying energy to people's homes and modernising everyday life through innovation and collaboration for over 100 years. Vattenfall wants to make fossil-free life possible within one generation. This is why the company is driving the transition to a more sustainable energy system with growing sustainable energy production and smart energy solutions for customers. Vattenfall has approximately 20,000 employees and operates mainly in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland and France. Vattenfall is a Swedish state-owned company.
The Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (RVB) is responsible for managing and maintaining the largest and most diverse property portfolio in the Netherlands, and is a part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties). The RVB uses property to help achieve the aims of central government and to add public value. It does so in cooperation with local parties and with a view to their interests. By temporarily providing land in Flevoland for the Symbizon project, the RVB supports research into renewable energy generation combined with agricultural production while preserving biodiversity. It also provides insights into future-proof land use in the Flevopolders, where the RVB owns more agricultural land.
As the largest private Dutch organic farm, ERF has been working on innovative farming and a strong organic food chain since 1996. For seven years now ERF has been developing a more robust cultivation system, in which agriculture and nature develop in an integrated way. A strip cultivation plot of 40 hectares gives inspiring results: fewer diseases, a higher yield, more biodiversity and more job satisfaction. With 10 other model farms in the Lighthouse Farm network, ERF is working on developing and disseminating this and other knowledge worldwide, aimed at creating sustainable, future-proof farms and food landscapes. ERF was set up in Flevoland by the public authorities to sustainably manage land that is temporarily without a destination and to make it available again for new purposes with immediate effect.
Hemus was founded by ERF in 2019 and focuses entirely on developing and sharing as much knowledge as possible about biodiversity development. The aim is to promote and accelerate the transition to nature, including farming. Through long-term research, a variety of experiments and the bringing together of hands-on experts, all available knowledge can be further developed and shared with growers and other stakeholders who want to get started. An example of this is the annual Strokenteelt innovation training course, started in 2019.
Image credits: ERF
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