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Thursday, 21 September 2023 | 08:30-10:00

Advancing Environmentally Positive PV Systems

- IEA PVPS Task 12 -

This workshop focuses on the advancement of environmentally positive photovoltaic (PV) systems, with a particular emphasis on novel applications such as Agrivoltaics, PV + pollinator habitats, and Floating PV. Bringing together experts, researchers, and policymakers, the workshop aims to explore land usage optimization, environmental monitoring, and impact as well as life cycle analysis for PV systems. Participants will engage in interactive discussions and knowledge exchange to accelerate the adoption of environmentally positive PV technologies. Key topics include dual land usage, life cycle analysis to assess environmental impacts throughout the system's lifespan, ecosystem impacts, PV+ system design/economics…

Detailed Programme

1.    Photovoltaic power plants & biodiversity – contrary or compatible?
Henny-C. Grewe (Hochschule Anhalt), Pascal Scholz, Sandra Dullau, Maren Helen Meyer, Sebastian Dittmann & Sabine Tischew

Two of the biggest challenges of our time are tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. In addressing the climate crisis, photovoltaics (PV) is considered one of the key technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality for Europe by 2050. That turns into an expansion of PV plants across Europe with sizes up to several hundred hectares. Their influence on biodiversity is discussed controversially. However, the ecological assessment of existing ground-mounted PV systems is diverse, ranging from markedly negative impacts on the landscape and biodiversity to potentially positive effects on ecosystem services and several animal species groups. In this context, within our project BIODIV-SOLAR, we focus on developing measures for increasing biodiversity in ground-mounted PV systems to reconcile energy generation and nature conservation demands. First, a concept for designing native seed mixtures was developed that can be flexibly applied to a wide variety of system designs and site characteristics and that specifically promotes pollinators. In a second step, different mixtures were tested in eight demonstrators in Eastern Germany, including large commercial PV plans and agrivoltaic systems. We present our initial successes in establishing species-rich grasslands and highlight the challenges and constraints in establishing multifunctional ground-mounted photovoltaic systems and solutions to address them. In principle, the generation of added value for biodiversity seems possible but highly depends on location and previous use.  

2.    Evaporation Reduction and Energy Generation Potential Using Floating Solar on Hydropower Reservoirs – Case Study Lake Nasser, Egypt
Konstantin Ilgen (Fraunhofer ISE), Alfons Armbruster, Dirk Schindler, Robert Ladwig, Jens Lange

An opportunity for efficient implementation of the Floating PV technology can be the coupling with other forms of renewable energy, such as hydropower. This often results in synergy effects that contribute to the benefit of both technologies. Especially in arid regions, water is a valuable resource, which has led to the construction of various dams in recent decades, resulting in large water reservoirs. However, these water resources are often subject to strong evaporation. Therefore, FPV could contribute to minimize evaporation losses, while generating renewable energy at the same time.
For the case study we modeled the reduction of evaporation losses through FPV by applying a hydrodynamic model for one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world, Lake Nasser (Egypt). We calculated a reduction of the evaporation by 55%, and water savings up to 6.5 billion cubic meters per year (BCM a-1). In addition, we discussed various possible ways to use the water saved by FPV and calculated the electricity generation from such an FPV system on the lake by using the yield simulation model Zenit. For the electricity generation we calculated that a FPV power plant, that covers around 10% of Lake Nasser can cover the annual electricity consumption of Egypt. The theoretical FPV electricity generation potential on Lake Nasser is 1620 TWh a-1, which is far more, than the consumption by the whole continent of Africa (715.6 TWh a-1).

3.    EU best practices in PV project sustainability
 Raffaele Rossi (SolarPower Europe)

As the world is currently facing a climate and biodiversity crisis, driven by human activities which pose a threat to our nature, society, and economy, solar PV emerges as the most rapid, versatile and cost-effective solution to curb the negative impacts of climate change. In the European Union, solar energy deployment is expanding rapidly, with the annual level of installations in 2022 exceeding 40 GW for the first time ever. The EU aims to reach 750 GW of solar PV capacity deployed by the end of the decade, anticipating a further strong increase in the pace of installations. Reaching the EU’s climate, nature protection, and nature restoration objectives will require the mobilisation of land for renewable energy projects. At the same time, land scarcity is posing a real challenge, driven by complex multisector activities, including but not limited to urbanisation and agricultural production. Ensuring sustainable land use and its management is key to delivering the energy transition, whilst preserving healthy ecosystems. We will discuss how various approaches in the deployment of solar PV plants – appropriate land identification for projects, best practice examples on nature-positive solar sites, innovative technologies like agriPV and floating PV – can support biodiversity preservation and efficient land use while tackling the climate crisis.

4.    Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate potential environmental and social impacts of emerging PV applications
Paula Pérez-López; Marchand-Lasserre, Mathilde

Following the exponential growth of photovoltaics (PV) in the last decades, novel applications are currently emerging to diversify the contexts of exploitation of PV systems and the potential synergies with other activities. Among the most promising applications are, for example, agrivoltaics and floating PV. Evaluating the performance of such systems is key to better understand their potential, as well as to identify possible axes of improvement, not only in economic terms, but also with respect to other dimensions of sustainability such as the environmental and the social ones. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) appears today as the most widely accepted to assess this performance over the whole life cycle of both conventional and emerging PV technologies and applications. Though specific recommendations for the harmonized application of LCA exist for conventional PV systems, such as the guidelines developed by the International Energy Agency’s PVPS Task 12 experts, some methodological challenges arise when dealing with novel combined applications. For example, for agrivoltaics, appropriate modelling approaches and methodological choices need to be explored, to account for the multiple functions of the system, with LCA aspects such as functional unit definition or allocation to be comprehensively discussed. Moreover, complementary aspects such as potential social impacts and benefits should be better addressed. To this end, social LCA is gaining attention after the publication of methodological guidelines in 2009, updated in 2020. Overall, LCA approaches constitute a key tool that can provide valuable information for decision-makers to guide the development of PV emerging applications.

5.    Panel discussion on the topic of environmental chaired by Etienne Drahi (TotalEnergies & IEA PVPS Task 12 Deputy Manager):

Paula Perez-Lopez, Raffaele Rossi, Anna Heimsath, Henny-C Grewe, Anna Heimsath

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Organised by:

WIP Renewable Energies
Sylvensteinstr. 2
81369 Munich
Technical Programme
coordinated by:

European Commission -
Joint Research Centre

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