Raising the bar for agriculture and solar

In the heart of central France, Lightsource bp is working with a local cattle farmer to develop plans for a new form of agrivoltaic project.

The idea offers sight of the mutual benefits solar can provide to rural communities while respecting and protecting agricultural activity in the face of a changing climate.

Elevating solar farms for cattle

Agrivoltaics, or agri PV, is the combination of agricultural activity and solar power production to create new resilient business cases for rural economies. It can come in many forms but the plans at our 22MW Henroux site near Sancoins are the first for Lightsource bp that will include cows grazing areas underneath the solar panels. The Charolais cattle grazing operation, including livestock, pasture management and hay production will continue to function across the site.

While sheep can comfortably live alongside solar panels installed in their normal configuration, Henroux will see some modules elevated to 2.5m and a tracking strategy adapted to allow cows the space to graze underneath. Projects of this like are an opportunity to consolidate the adoption of rotational grazing and optimise pasture productivity.

Render image of cows grazing under solar panels at Henroux solar site

Render of our Henroux solar project

Safeguarding agriculture from the growing impact of climate change

Climate change is widely acknowledged as the greatest threat to agriculture. Well-designed agrivoltaic projects that are tuned to the changing local conditions can create more resilient farming businesses.

Safeguarding farming heritage doesn’t always mean doing things the same way as they have always been done. Adaptation is important. The plans for Henroux don’t just provide a more robust farming operation for the landowner, they will also help to future proof it for the climate of tomorrow.

This central part of France has witnessed increased periods of drought. Some fields at the Henroux site are currently planted with maize, which is grown for cow feed. However, the droughts and increasingly sandy soil has led to poor yields. These fields will be planted with new seed mixes that are more resilient, can thrive in the shade of the solar panels and will have a longer growing season. The end result is more protein-rich fodder for the cows.

Other planned activity at the Henroux site includes, on the environmental side:

  • Conservation of existing hedgerows
  • Planting of new hedgerows
  • Preservation of existing pond and expansion onto area of wetland habitat
  • Continuation of existing beekeeping activity
  • Biodiversity protection for species including agile frogs and spotted salamanders.

Innovating with farmers and communities

As agri PV activity plays a more important role in the deployment of solar energy projects around the world, Lightsource bp is proud to work with innovative farmers and local communities.

Our deep solar expertise and in-house engineering and technology teams enable the success of these partnerships. They can also create knowledge for our teams across the globe to share as we look to support rural economies to create climate-resilient business while also generating the green electrons required to drive climate action.

Find out more about our commitments to reponsible solar.

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