Agrivoltaics receives Febeliec Energy Award


AgriVoltaics, a project by KU Leuven and EnergyVille, that combines agriculture and renewable energy generation, has received the Febeliec Energy Award 2021.

Source: Trends

The jury of the Febeliec Energy Award, led by VOKA chairman and ex-top executive of BASF Antwerp Wouter De Geest, has announced Agrivoltaics, an initiative that is located at the crossroads of two sectors that need to transform in order to cope with the climate and energy challenge, to be the winner of this year’s Febeliec Energy Award.

The share of renewable energy in the energy mix is ​​only a few percent, while more than 40 percent of the Belgian surface consists of agricultural land. The multidisciplinary team of Jens Moschner, Professor Jan Cappelle, Thomas Reher, Professor Bram Van de Poel, Brecht Willockx and Professor Johan Driesen therefore investigated the potential of combining agriculture with solar panels. Simply put: instead of one field that supplies 100 percent renewable energy and one that produces 100 percent agricultural crops, two fields, for example, each supplying 80 percent crops or energy, provide a total of 160 percent energy and crops on the same surface.

That 80 percent was not arbitrarily determined: a pilot project showed that the lower yield of crops, due to the plants receiving less light, is approximately 16.4 percent. “If 1 percent of the agricultural area in Belgium were to be equipped with solar panels, that would triple the capacity of solar energy,” the researchers say. In order to make it profitable, it is important that the farmer consumes himself as much as possible, and therefore uses the energy that he produces himself. About twenty companies have already expressed interest, but the legislation still needs to be amended to put the idea into commercial practice.

AgriVoltaics was chosen from eight entries and came out first, before two remaining candidates in the final. Air Liquide entered the Alive project, which allows to integrate more renewable energy into its air separation units (ASU) and save about 15 percent energy. The site in Moerdijk, the Netherlands, will be the first to be equipped with the technology, which will eventually also be implemented at the four Belgian sites.

Gilles Chaspierre and Professor Jef Beerten (KU Leuven/EnergyVille) conducted research into the effects of inertia (inertia) on grid stability in collaboration with high-voltage grid operator Elia. As conventional power plants are taken out of service and replaced by converter-based solutions such as renewable energy, energy flows on the grid are changing. This can lead to local imbalances. Chaspierre developed software to speed up the calculations for the risk analysis from days to minutes.

Febeliec, the federation of industrial energy consumers, uses its prize to stimulate research that is innovative, problem-solving and sustainable, and additionally leads to specifc results and has growth potential.

Watch the ceremony here

Jens Moschner

Research Manager

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