Europe’s largest collection of so-called ‘fruitvoltaic’ panels protects plants and allows light to reach them, as well as generating lots of energy

A raspberry producer in the Netherlands has invested in what is thought to be the European fruit industry’s largest solar panel installation to date.

With state support, Martens van Hoof recently added a total of 24,206 photovoltaic cells to his farm, which is based north of Eindhoven.

But unlike conventional solar energy systems, this one sits directly above the raspberry crops. That’s because of its specially designed panels, dubbed ‘fruitvoltaic’, which allow the right amount of light to reach the plants below. They also cover and protect the plants from hail and intense heat.

According to German group BayWa, the system generates an industry record-breaking output of 8.7 MWp – enough, it says, to power more than 2,800 homes.

Van Hoof’s decision to part-fund the installation and therefore cut his energy costs apparently stems from a pilot he ran at the site in 2020. With help from BayWa and its subsidiary GroenLeven, he plans to extend the project to cover his entire operation.

Van Hoofs BayWa raspberry fruitvoltaics solar panels

The photovoltaic cells are designed to let enough light reach the plants below

Resilience and renewal

BayWa Global Produce’s sister company BayWa r e Global recently secured €6.5m in funding from the EU’s Life Programme.

It says it will use this money to combine agriculture with solar power generation at six different sites in five EU countries by 2027.

“The combination of energy production and fruit farming at scale, or fruitvoltaics, will be supported in Spain, France, and the Netherlands, contributing to increased resilience against climate change,” BayWa Global Produce in a post on LinkedIn. “Additionally, projects in Spain, Germany, and Italy will explore the expansion of [agri-photovoltaics] alongside field crops.”

The post continued: “We firmly believe that with the right grid infrastructure, this technology represents one of many crucial steps toward a more sustainable future.”