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Axpo and Agri-Photovoltaics: Pioneering Sustainable Energy and Agriculture

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Sustainable energy production is at the forefront of the public’s minds, governments, and even energy companies. While everything in the world of energy transformation is moving as slowly as a wooly mammoth, some companies are making significant changes that can be implemented anywhere. One such company is Axpo, Switzerland’s largest energy producer.

Axpo is pioneering a transformative approach to sustainability by integrating renewable energy production with agricultural practices. This innovative method, known as agri-photovoltaics, offers a symbiotic solution to the increasing competition for land between energy production and agriculture, promising benefits for both sectors.

sustainable agriculture

The Essence of Agri-photovoltaics

Agri-photovoltaics is a groundbreaking concept where cereals, potatoes, and fruits grow beneath solar panels. This dual-purpose system generates electricity and shields crops from adverse weather conditions, such as hail, frost, and drought. The Food and Agriculture Organization classifies agri-photovoltaics under “integrated food energy systems.” These systems can be open, where solar panels are elevated, allowing for agricultural activities underneath, or closed, resembling greenhouses with integrated solar panels. Axpo’s subsidiary, Urbasolar, has already implemented the latter in France. Also, read The Role of Solar Power in Indian Agriculture.

Axpo’s Practical Implementations

Axpo’s agri-photovoltaics projects showcase the practicality and benefits of this approach. One of their ambitious projects, NalpSolar, plans to install 30,000 solar modules over alpine pasture land, equivalent to 12 football fields. Located 2,000 meters above sea level, this system aims to produce 13 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually for 3,000 households. During summers, cattle graze beneath these panels, benefiting from the shade.

In Mont-Prés-Chambord, France, Urbasolar transformed unused farmland into a dual-purpose site. This agri-photovoltaics system shelters a local sheep herd while producing 5,350 MWh of electricity annually, enough for 2,500 residents. Another project in Berre l’Etang, France, uses solar-covered greenhouses to protect weather-sensitive strawberry and raspberry crops, ensuring consistent yields.

Global Impact and Adoption

The global adoption of agri-photovoltaics is gaining momentum. Systems with a combined capacity of 2.9 gigawatts are operational worldwide, with Europe leading at 51%, Asia at 40%, and America at 9%. The dual benefits of enhancing biodiversity and providing additional income streams for farmers drive this growth. Moreover, agri-photovoltaics’s efficient land use is crucial given the increasing land scarcity.

Innovations and Challenges

Start-up company Voltiris is testing an innovative agri-photovoltaics solution at the Agroscope site in Conthey. Their system filters sunlight in greenhouses, directing essential light for plant growth while using the remaining light for electricity generation. This method ensures efficient use of the light spectrum, with the pilot project focusing on various crops, aiming for CO2-neutral greenhouses in Switzerland by 2050.

However, agri-photovoltaics faces hurdles. Technical challenges include developing suitable mounting systems for solar panels that cater to agricultural needs. The current legal framework in Switzerland also presents ambiguities regarding agri-photovoltaics’ implementation and energy distribution. Furthermore, viable business models are essential to attract farmers and investors, possibly through combined income from farming and electricity generation or by trading CO2 certificates.

The Future and Potential of Agri-photovoltaics

Agri-photovoltaics holds immense potential for Switzerland’s energy transition, offering dual land use, additional farmer income, biodiversity enhancement, and climate change adaptation. However, technical, legal, and business model challenges must be addressed to realize its full potential. Political will, research, and farmer and consumer support are crucial for agri-photovoltaics’s success. As technology advances and research investments grow, agri-photovoltaics is poised to play a pivotal role in future energy supply, promoting sustainable agriculture and opening new income avenues for farmers.

Axpo’s commitment to agri-photovoltaics showcases the future of renewable energy and agriculture. This symbiotic approach offers the opportunity to generate renewable energies efficiently and makes agriculture more sustainable. With the proper political will, research, and support, agri-photovoltaics can significantly shape a sustainable future, playing an increasingly important role in energy supply in the coming years.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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