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Insolight combines agriculture with renewable energy production in Valais


12 July 2021

To test a new agrivoltaic solution, Insolight and its partners Romande Energie and Agroscope will be building a very innovative solar installation on the Agroscope site in Conthey in the canton of Valais.

Based in Renens, Insolight develops next-generation solar PV panels based on a patented optical technology. The start-up’s newest design, the insolagrin agrivoltaic system, incorporates THEIA (Translucency & High Efficiency in Agrivoltaics) solar modules to offer a revolutionary combination of translucency and high electrical efficiency.

Combining two usage modes based on Insolight’s optical micro-tracking technology, these modules focus light on high-efficiency solar cells. When aligned, the optical system can generate energy (E-MODE), but it is also possible to unalign it to “leak” the light (MLT-MODE).

The solar modules therefore act like a “smart” shade adjusting the amount of light they let through. They enable the optimization of plant photosynthesis over the seasons and help reduce the negative impact of hot summer temperatures on the yield and quality of agricultural products, whilst recovering the remainder of the light in the form of electricity.

A structure that combines agriculture and photovoltaics

In a new pilot project supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (OFEN), Insolight and its partners Romande Energie and Agroscope, will install these solar panels over strawberry and raspberry crops at Agroscope’s experimental center in Conthey (canton of Valais) as replacements for protective polytunnels.

The project team aims to demonstrate that it is possible to efficiently combine agricultural production and electricity generation on the same site, using a dual-purpose agricultural and photovoltaic structure.

Starting July 2021, the system will be tested for four years on a surface area of 165 square meters, designed to provide meaningful results allowing future large-scale deployments to be planned. The results will also be fundamental in assessing this system’s cost-efficiency and to clarify its financial prospects.