Solar farms turn out to be hives of economic activity – pv magazine international
A new study by researchers at Lancaster and Reading universities in the UK has successfully quantified the economic boom provided by the symbiotic relationship between solar farms and bee hives.
Bees are extremely important, not only because my name begins with one, but also because they are responsible for about 70% of the fruits, vegetables and nuts that we consume on a daily basis. However, since the mid-2000s, a species threatening “colony collapse disorder” has seen commercial bee populations wiped out.
For this reason, scientific researchers have studied new land management practices and some of the most promising concern the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and PV. One of these studies, published in the journal Biological conservation, examined the economic benefits of integrating beehives with solar farms.
Enter the Agrivoltaic
The symbiotic benefits of agro-voltaics are increasingly well documented, and many have suggested incorporating bee hives into solar parks as a dual symbiotic solution to bee population problems and increased energy capacity. renewable.
In the United Kingdom (UK), a team of researchers from Lancaster and Reading universities published a study concluding that the value of British agriculture could be increased by millions of pounds per year if bee hives were incorporated in solar parks across the country.
However, the scientists behind the study made it clear that wild pollinators should be given priority over honey bees, if at all, when it comes to managing solar farms. Solar farms are essential for energy transition and environmental sustainability, but they occupy large areas of land and are therefore expected to provide additional environmental and business benefits where possible.
Of course, many solar farms are located in agricultural regions where the habitats of wild pollinators have long been degraded or eradicated. For these, bee hives would be welcome additions, providing pollinators that would increase agricultural production.
“Managing solar parks for honey bees can have positive impacts on crop yields and therefore on financial returns,” said Alona Armstrong, senior lecturer at Lancaster University, “But, it is important to consider site-by-site suitability given the potential implications for wild pollinators and the benefits of site management for wider biodiversity.
Of course, there are solar farms that already have bees at work. For example, Iberdrola built an apiary at his Andévalo photovoltaic power plant near Huelva, in the Spanish region of Andalusia, home to 165 hives and over 8 million bees, and another at its Núñez de Balboa Project in Usagre, near Badajoz in the Extremadura region of the country, home to 105 hives and five million bees.
However, the economic benefits of this symbiotic relationship had not been quantified until this British study. Realizing the cost of setting up and managing beehives, the research team used detailed land cover maps to compare solar park locations with crop distribution, as well as existing data on bee hives. , pollination requirements and crop values to determine that deploying bees to solar parks could have increased crop yields by £ 5.9million in 2017 alone.
Among the countries of the UK, England was the country that would benefit the most from the integration of honey bee hives, mainly because oilseeds are so widely cultivated. However, the researchers also looked at the field bean, flaxseed, pear, apple, strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry crops, and found that red fruits like berries would benefit the most per capita.
Field crop yields were found to benefit from £ 2.6million, while top fruits such as those used to make cider would see an increase of £ 1.3million and red berries by 1.9 million pounds sterling.
Ultimately, and this is, of course, a hypothesis (albeit an instructive one), the report found that while all UK crops were grown within a mile of a solar park housing a beehive of bees, the value of these returns could increase by £ 80million each year.
“Our study shows how multidisciplinary research can find new land management practices,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Simon Potts of the University of Reading, “which can simultaneously benefit producers of land. energy, to farmers, beekeepers and consumers “.
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