Growing pears under solar panels


Can a solar installation achieve a symbiosis between pear growing and the production of clean, sustainable energy?

At the Van der Velpen company in Bierbeek in Flemish Brabant, KU Leuven has set up a remarkable pilot project and European first, based on an IT model. It has installed solar panels over a pear orchard to determine the best way to link a profitable crop to the production of additional electricity. This production method really is a necessity today given growing demand, the planned phase-out of nuclear power and the desire to avoid fossil fuels as much as possible in the future.

The agrivoltaic solar installation is already looking promising. The installation creates a favourable microclimate, in which it is slightly warmer at night and cooler during the day, which can protect the crops from frost and sun respectively. This is important in view of global warming and to increase the income security of producers. Harvesting under solar panels is also fairly easy, especially if there is already a construction for anti-hail nets, and therefore has little impact on the environment and agricultural activity. However, more expertise is needed to optimally adapt the entire pear growth cycle to parameters such as temperature, soil moisture and light radiation in the field. 

In the meantime, we can start dreaming of a tasty, high-quality pear, grown in a sustainable environment.