Agrivoltaics: a tool for crop protection

Agrivoltaics: a tool for crop protection

Nowadays, our agricultural production methods are being called into question by the major challenges faced by farmers. TSE, a specialist in agrivoltaics, offers innovative solutions.

The challenges of French agriculture.

French agriculture faces a number of challenges. One of the main ones is maintaining food security and sovereignty while reducing the ecological footprint of the agricultural sector and maintaining natural resources for future generations.
Our farmers are thus facing major difficulties that put their production methods into perspective.

Climate change is a major challenge for agriculture, which is suffering the full brunt of the consequences of high temperatures, droughts and extreme weather events. Indeed, for several years, agriculture has been facing increasingly hot and dry seasons generating major decreases in yield throughout the country. 2022 was also the hottest year in history and all regions of France have experienced unprecedented decreases in yield of up to -53.6% on non-irrigated grain maize and up to -17.1% on winter wheat. As the need for water increases, water resources are becoming more and more scarce. Since more than 70% of fresh water is used for agriculture, it is important to use more economical methods.

Faced with these multiple challenges, agriculture must continue to evolve and modernise in order to respond to sustainable and resilient models. Innovative solutions must be found to guarantee food security, the economic viability of farms and the preservation of the environment.

To meet these challenges, an innovative solution is emerging as a crop protection tool: Agrivoltaics.

What is agrivoltaics or agri-photovoltaics?


Agrivoltaics consists in installing photovoltaic panels on agricultural production areas and makes it possible to maximize the use of farmlands while producingrenewable electricity.

Since 2022, ADEME, the Agency for Ecological Transition, has proposed a definition of agrivoltaics based on a “concept of synergy between agricultural production and photovoltaic production on the same plot area. The photovoltaic installation must therefore provide a service in response to an agricultural problem.”

ADEME research has shown that the results obtained on agricultural yields on the underside of photovoltaic structures depend on the pedoclimatic conditions of the projects, on the species and varieties cultivated (whose sun and water needs are variable) and on the characteristics of these structures (coverage rate, orientation of the panels, height...) and the characteristics of these structures (coverage rate, orientation of the panels, height, etc.)

A sector in the process of being structured

To strengthen the confidence of professionals in the agricultural sector and avoid excesses, it is necessary tooversee agrivoltaics.

It is in particular for this purpose that the association was created France Agrivoltaics, which TSE joined in January 2023.
In addition, the law relating to the acceleration of renewable energies, promulgated on 10 March 2023 and introduced by the Minister of Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher, will allow the creation of an official legal framework and improve the local acceptability of these projects.

TSE: expert in agrivoltaics development

French independent producer of solar energy, which already has 12 years of experience, TSE is today one of the leaders in agrivoltaics thanks to innovative solutions for agricultural canopies and agrivoltaics shades. On a daily basis, our team of more than 40 R&D engineers strives to design and develop solutions that best meet farmers' problems.

The various agrivoltaic solutions offered by TSE

At TSE, we believe that it is possible to reconcile sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, the redeployment of biodiversity and the preservation of water resources. That is why we have developed solutions fordynamic agrivoltaics which allow the coupling of photovoltaic production and agricultural production.

Driven by this ambition, we have designed various products that meet different agricultural uses.

The agricultural canopy, with its photovoltaic panels suspended at a height of 5 meters, this tool allows the passage of agricultural machinery up to 27 meters wide. The agricultural canopy was designed primarily for field crops, without changing operating practices.

The cultural shade makes it possible to improve the agro-climatic conditions of crops, while producing carbon-free energy. Shading makes it possible to limit thermal and water stress in order to preserve their agronomic potential.

The solar fallow, protects unused land thanks to rotating shade. The solution also contributes to maintaining biodiversity on the plot.

All our products are designed not to constrain the passage of machines and thus not to interfere with the work of agricultural land. In addition, the landscape integration of our products is designed to integrate into the local landscape and promote the redeployment of biodiversity.

The TSE experiment program

With over 10 pilot sites under development and spread throughout France, TSE is setting up the largest agrivoltaic demonstrator in France. Over a period of 9 years, these sites follow a scientific test protocol co-constructed and conducted with our teams ofagronomist experts in plant and animal biology and our scientific and agricultural partners.

Agronomic trials are conducted at each pilot site to demonstrate the relevance and effectiveness of this concept on different cultivation and breeding practices. An in-depth study makes it possible to quantify the expected beneficial effects on different crops, yields and quality and to adjust varieties, crop practices, rotations and ancillary crops over the course of the experiment.

At each pilot site, the test is conducted on the area covered by the solar panels, and a control surface just next to the shade with the same pipe. Amance's agricultural canopy made it possible to launch the first trials of this ambitious program. 6 different soybean varieties were planted and then harvested in October 2022. The results obtained are very encouraging, in particular on the varietal effect, vegetative growth, and protection against heat and water stress.

The benefits of agrivoltaics for crop protection

Temperature drop under the shade

In summer, the temperature under the shade is reduced. The first tests carried out under the agricultural canopy of Amance in Haute-Saône, demonstrated better protection against heat stress during heatstroke: the maximum temperature observed under the shade was 1.2° lower than the control zone.

Decrease in evapotranspiration/Water saving

The partial and rotating shade generated by the photovoltaic panels allows the maintenance of better humidity and reduces the water stress of agricultural crops grown dry. It also allows significant savings in water for irrigated plots.

Decrease in thermal amplitude

In the phase of resumption of vegetation for winter crops (straw cereals, oilseeds, legumes, etc.), the risk of early spring frost can be destructive at this period. Positioned horizontally during the night, solar panels reduce the thermal amplitude and thus reduce the risk of frost.

Improvement of fodder yields

For varieties that tolerate partial shade, protection against various abiotic stresses at key phenological stages should improve their grain or fodder productivity.

Financial security

In addition to protecting crops and producing renewable energy, our agrivoltaic solutions also guarantee a long-term income for the operator and owner of the land.

The future prospects of agrivoltaics

In the years to come, the potential of agrivoltaics could be even higher. The objectives of the PPE (Multiannual Energy Programming) plan to connect between 35 and 44GWp of solar energy by 2028, which would correspond to approximately 0.1% of the useful agricultural area (SAU). In the longer term, France Agrivoltaisme assesses the potential of agrivoltaics projects between 60 and 80 GWp, spread over 20,000 to 30,000 farms in 2050, the equivalent of 80,000 to 120,000 hectares.

In this context, only compliance with the legislative framework put in place recently when the law on the acceleration of renewable energies was enacted will allow agrivoltaics to develop for the benefit of farmers.

What you need to remember:

Agrivoltaics is a real tool for crop protection. In addition to being a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution, it creates a real synergy between agricultural activities and energy production while ensuring the sustainability of our food sovereignty.

In addition, the establishment of real experimental protocols is necessary to advance research and deepen knowledge on the subject.