A project is starting this fall to explore the opportunities of generating solar energy on dairy farm grasslands. Combining agriculture and power generation could provide a solution to the challenges society faces when it comes to climate change.
This is also stated in the recent parliamentary letter from the Minister for Housing and Spatial Planning. SolarMilk is the first Dutch project that focuses entirely on the integration of ground-mounted solar systems in dairy farming, with maintaining agricultural activity as the starting point.
The main goal of SolarMilk is to develop a practically applicable design methodology for combining grass and power production within social and societal frameworks. This methodology should be applicable in a variety of fields and reflect the economic impact on the dairy farm. To arrive at a reliable design methodology, four test fields, each the size of 1.3 ha, will be set up on sand and clay soils, in which various measurements will be taken over several growing seasons. These test plots will employ as yet little-used vertical and solar tracking systems with space for grass production and machining. The impact on grass yield, forage quality and stream production will be monitored. The measurements are linked and supplemented with financial information and economic data from dairy farms. These are the building blocks to arrive at a design methodology for combinations of dairy farming and solar energy within socially desired frameworks. Immediately upon completion of the project, the design methodology will become available to the agricultural and energy sectors.
Furthermore, public support is being explored in design workshops with stakeholders to explore and exploit more linkage opportunities such as water storage or biodiversity restoration.
Within the National Consortium Sun in Landscape, interim results are exchanged with other Agri-PV projects such as Sunbiose and Symbizon where the focus is on fruit farming and arable farming.
This four-year project originated within the National Consortium Sun in Landscape and has received a grant of 2.2 million euros from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. The initiative fits into the government's pursuit of multiple use of space in solar parks where the agricultural function of land is preserved, or "solar power as a guest at the farmer's house. Experiments with solar systems over fruit crops and arable farming are already underway in the Netherlands, and in Germany, for example, several systems have already been installed within dairy farming with initial encouraging results. Since dairy farming uses about 65% of the Dutch agricultural land, the project also sees potential here. Agri-PV, the combination of agriculture and solar energy, can diversify farmers' income streams, which can create financial room to more easily bear sustainability measures for, for example, nitrogen reduction.