Biomass production for food, material and energy as well as renewable energy production such as open space photovoltaic (PV) can be characterized as technologies requiring large areas. In densely populated countries like Germany, renewable energy policies have intensified the area competition between energy crops, food crops, but also large scale PV-plants. Recent studies have shown that most large scale PV-plants have been built on arable land, while only very few were built on transition areas and sealed area. With the expected price competitiveness of large scale PV-plants, arable land will be interesting for new open space PV-installations. Positive effects for the environment from solar power (instead of using fossil energy) can face unintended (negative) effects from PV plants if they occupy food production area. Thus, land use competition and even conflicts between agriculture and energy production may occur.
A workaround for this problem is Agrophotovoltaic (APV) that combines photosynthesis and open space PV at the same time and space, with plants (e.g. vegetables) growing below mounted PV-cells. This combined use allows for a reduction of conflicts over rare fertile land between the energy and the food sector, but also minimizes conflicts with stakeholders from tourism, recreation and urban development. This may even develop win-win-effects such as reducing the heat stress and stabilize the water supply of plants during summer time.
System Dynamics are used to gain an understanding of the techno-economic dynamics. Scenarios will be developed and analyzed to assess the impacts of natural, political and societal (priority) settings. Additionally, social and environmental implications of APV will be considered for different model regions. The potential assessment will be performed using a quantitative computer model that is connected to a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based model considering geographic conditions (e.g. radiation, hydrologic and soil parameters, digital elevation model). Finally, the potential for APV will be compared to other renewable energy types. The analyzed systems include terrestrial energy crops (e.g. maize), APV-systems, and open-space PV only.