Sun for Future - Biodiv Solar Parks on Farmland
First published 3 May 2019 - Version of 24 February 2022 - time to read: 20 minutes
What is a Biodiv Solar Park? Please watch this video of the Mooshof solar park.
Biodiv solar parks can become the essential element of a decentralised energy transition for more biodiversity and climate protection as well as the urgently needed conversion of agriculture to more ecology. My goal is a socially acceptable, public welfare-oriented, sustainable, environmentally friendly, fault-tolerant, decentralised, secure and permanently affordable energy supply. In this way, I would like to keep the beautiful, blue planet in a liveable state for us and all others who form the web of life with us.
A fossil-free society with 100% energy supply from domestic sources threatens many jobs at first glance. Very quickly, 800,000 people in the car industry plus 2 million in the supplier industry serve as highly effective arguments to block the necessary change, or to develop such a fear that clear thinking stops. This probably also applies to politicians who seriously believe that the issues of energy transition, biodiversity and climate protection can be solved in homeopathic doses. I find it more courageous and purposeful to create meaningful new jobs than to prevent change through fear.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, I allow myself to think extremely and radically from the end:
- How much energy does Germany need for a fossil-free society?
Fraunhofer UMSICHT and other experts speak with good reason of approx. 1,300 to 3,000 terawatt hours/year.
- What is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly form of renewable energy in Germany in the long term?
Solar electricity from solar parks of 10-30 hectares or more. Electricity can be generated there in the long term and permanently for less than 2 cents/kWh.
- How much land is needed to generate 1,300 to 3,000 terawatt hours of electricity per year with solar parks?
1.3 to 3 million hectares are needed for this.
- Where can this area be found without disadvantages and restrictions for food and with advantages for environmental protection?
In agriculture. Specifically, I mean the 2.3 million hectares of arable land on which plants are cultivated for energy use. That is currently about 1 million hectares of maize for biogas plants.
- Why this area in particular?
Because the efficiency of solar utilisation per hectare with solar parks is 40-80 times higher than if plants were grown there.
- What do farmers say about this type of land use?
Because of the much higher efficiency, solar parks generate about 10-40 times more contribution margin than crops in a very environmentally friendly way. Farmers do what is worthwhile.
- What do nature protectionists think about up to 3 million hectares of biodiverse solar parks on agricultural land?
Biodiverse solar parks on intensively used farmland with biodiversity management and permanent monitoring ensure a long-term increase in biodiversity in agricultural land.
- If this many solar parks were needed by 2050, about 40-100 gigawatt peak would have to be added annually. What follows from this?
Domestic solar module factories are urgently needed. With the upstream and downstream industries, as well as the people for the construction and operation of the solar parks, this would mean approx. 800,000 to 2 million new jobs in the dimensions mentioned.
- If one only relies on solar parks that enable a decentralised, environmentally friendly, citizen-oriented energy transition, then one would have to store a lot of electricity because the sun does not shine at night and in the dark season, or does not shine enough. How is that supposed to work?
By first starting to convert the existing 9,200 biogas plants into storage sites. After the production of biogas has ended, there will be about 27,000 tanks with a volume of about 1,250 M³, which will make it possible to store about 1.7 terawatt hours of electricity in flow batteries. (Assuming 100 Wh/litre energy density.) This can be a reasonable downstream use of the infrastructure of biogas plants for the storage and de-storage of electricity, including the use of the waste heat generated in the process. The greater the amount of electricity to be stored in the future, the greater the amount of waste heat generated. In a predominantly solar energy world, this could be more than 1,000 terawatt hours of storage volume. With the necessary Power to X and X to Power processes, waste heat utilisation, as the royal discipline of the energy transition, will be able to make a large contribution to the heat transition.
On the seriousness of the situation we are in at the moment, there is useful information in the current books by David Attenborough "A Life on Our Planet" and Josef Settele "Die Triple Krise". It is not only the flood disaster in the Eifel that calls for thoughtful, rapid, radical rethinking and action.
If you would like to discover more, please read on.
1. Short description
2 Wildlife Conservation in the Solar Park
3 Why Solar Parks?
4 Energy system today and 2050
5 The Challenge of Demand for Land
5.1 Humus accumulation in the Biodiv solar park
5.2 Agricultural photovoltaics (APV) versus Biodiv photovoltaics (BPV)
5.3 Bioenergy areas
6 What to consider
8 Outlook for implementation in Germany
8.2 Storage and distribution
8.3 Feed-in tariff
9 Outlook for implementation in Europe
10 Further Links, Sources
1 Short description
This book „Klimawandel und Biodiversität – Folgen für Deutschland“ shows:
To ensure the existence of the life forms known today, preserving and increasing biodiversity is at least as essential as preventing climate catastrophe.
There is a demonstrable link between climate change and biodiversity loss, as IPCC and IPBES jointly emphasise. Climate events upset natural environments and threaten many plant and animal species with extinction.
E.O. Wilson proposes to put "Half Earth" under conservation. For the One Planet Movement, one third is enough. This study by the Federal Environment Agency says:
At least 15-20% high-value ecological priority areas (EFAs) in the agricultural landscape are necessary to achieve the national goals for the protection and promotion of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. This corresponds to 2.5 to 3.3 million hectares of agricultural land. The "Zukunftskommission Landwirtschaft" recommends a minimum share of 10 % in the open landscape for landscape structure elements, fringe structures and non-productive areas.
On this agricultural land - that is all land used for agriculture - high-quality ecological priority areas could also be established in the form of biodiversity solar parks - "biodiv solar parks" for short. This is best done on intensively used farmland, because this is where the ecological benefits are greatest.
The permanent conversion of arable land into extensively used grassland with Biodiv solar parks not only provides very cheap renewable energy, but also has numerous positive effects on environmental goals: Biodiversity promotion, soil protection, water conservation, the increase of carbon stocks in soils. Last but not least, this creates a great deal of local added value in the form of work in planning, financing, construction, operation, care and maintenance of photovoltaic technology and the area.
In November 2019 the PV-Magazine reported very vividly on Prof. Sabine Tischew's visit to a biodiv solar park. Here is the accompanying photo album for a first impression.
Biodiv solar parks seal only a minimal part of the built-up area with their posts and transformer stations and offer a high benefit for biodiversity, as this study of BNE and this DBU project also show. Biodiv solar parks are a benefit for flora and fauna.
The biodiv solar parks are arranged according to nature conservation criteria so that they complement a transnational biotope network in a meaningful way. In this way, they make an important and necessary contribution to the reconnection of habitats and thus to the conservation of biological diversity in Germany. The money required for the biotope network from biodiv solar parks does not require any special funding, but is simply financed from the revenue from the sale of electricity.
Since these areas are no longer agricultural land as long as they are used in the form of biodiv-solar parks, the subsidies released by the European Union (CAP 1st and 2nd pillar) can be used for more integrated environmental protection in agriculture in the sense of the Green Deal. Biodiv-solar parks should in no way be an argument for not taking into account environmental concerns in agriculture.
A biotope network of biodiv solar parks kills many birds with one stone:
- High benefits for biodiversity
- a successful energy turnaround
- Combating the climate disaster
- Financing the conversion of the agricultural landscape
- Farmers become nature conservationists
- High added value with many future-oriented and permanent jobs
The idea for a transnational biotope network of biodiv solar parks was inspired by this contribution: Naturtalk FÜNF VOR ZWÖLF! - Biodiversity through biotope networks.
The current UN Biodiversity Report that none of the 20 goals of the Biodiversity Decade has been achieved. The IPCC Special Report on Climate Crisis and Land of August 2019 calls for an urgent turnaround in land use. The Leopoldina presents a 10-point plan on biodiversity. Will man and nature finally come together in the face of the corona and climate crisis?
Now is the time to take the energy transition seriously, because the climate crisis is not a future scenario. We should release the brakes on the expansion of renewable energies, because electricity from wind and solar farms is now cheaper than coal-fired power. The Paris Agreement can be followed by action.
How can solar parks help to make the energy revolution and necessary changes possible? Could this path lead to the goal?
2 Wildlife Conservation in the Solar Park
Only at first glance are solar parks technical installations that devalue the surrounding landscape and nature. At second glance, solar parks offer enormous potential for nature and species conservation when solar parks are built where intensive farming has been practised up to now.
Areas of arable land with few species are transformed into high-quality, species-rich plant communities for nature conservation purposes. Biodiv Solar parks offer a special habitat for plants, insects and small mammals, which are rarely found in the intensively used cultural landscape. In this way they make a significant contribution to the conservation of many native species and mysterious wildflowers.
In principle, every solar park offers ecological added value compared to "industrial" agriculture. However, the benefit for flora and fauna is much higher if there is a site-specific biodiversity management concept.
- Sowing with different species-rich wild plant mixtures (regional seed)
- Creation of differently structured habitats
- Sub-area specific mowing regime
- Regular monitoring
- at least 3 metres of sunny area between the module rows
- 80 cm instead of 60 cm ground clearance
- Generous fence distance to the module field
Such solar park biotopes enhance the existing agricultural landscape and do not require compensation areas. A biodiv solar park could perhaps be considered creditable under the One Planet Movement or receive eco-points? A biodiv solar park could perhaps count as a nature conservation area under the One Planet Movement or receive eco-points?
Can a biodiv solar park be considered creditable under the One Planet Movement, or receive eco-points?
3 Why Solar Parks?
Solar parks in Germany are currently profitable at a price of 4-5 euro cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity generated. This also applies to biodiv solar parks, because they are built without special additional expenses for photovoltaic technology. They already do not require any financial support at present and will generate electricity even more cheaply in the future. Solar parks are therefore economically reasonable and also serve the purposes of nature protection.
After the initial investment has been depreciated, power from solar parks is only charged for operating and maintenance costs. Then electricity prices of less than 2 euro cents per kilowatt hour are to be expected. Since the operating time of a solar park should in principle be unlimited, electricity from solar parks is extremely cost-effective in the long term.
Roof and facade systems may be well suited for the own electricity consumption. For the long-term, secure and affordable supply of all sectors, rather not. Because of the higher installation, maintenance and operating costs, power from roof or facade systems will always be considerably more expensive than power from solar parks.
In other words:
Photovoltaic installers install as much module output in a solar park in three weeks as they do on roofs in a year with the same amount of labour.
Scaffolding for installation, scaffolding for refurbishment and maintenance on the roof, less powerful inverters are more expensive. Downtimes during roof refurbishment, service life of the building, damage to the roof must be considered. There are also not enough roofs and facades to generate the quantities of electricity listed below.
Solar parks are also more efficient by a factor of 40 to 80 compared to other bioenergy sources.
4 Energy system today and 2050
To date, aboute 51 GWp of solar power systems have been installed on roofs and free-field sites in Germany.
The current annual power requirement in Germany is 500 terawatt hours. Across sectors, an annual electricity demand of approx. 1,300 to 3,000 terawatt hours will be realistic from 2050 onwards, if the primary energy demand of today is taken as a basis.
Solar power, wind power, water power together with short-, medium- and long-term power storage technologies (Power-to-x) could secure a complete power supply from renewable energies until 2050. This study by the Federal Environment Agency already said so in 2013.
The following diagram (based on a template by Prof. Görge Deerberg, Fraunhofer Umsicht) shows what the 2050 Energy system could look like:
The annual demand for electricity is rising from just under 550 terawatt hours at present to up to 3,000 terawatt hours. The energy demand of the transport sector is falling enormously due to a massive reduction in individual traffic and the extensive conversion to electric mobility (battery, overhead line, e-fuels). Demand in the heating and industrial sectors remains essentially the same. New elements in the energy system of the future are the storage (X) in the middle and the waste heat generated by all P2X and X2P processes. The ultimate discipline of waste heat utilisation complements or even replaces special heat production. Waste heat from industrial processes is also integrated into the energy system as far as possible.
5 The Challenge of Demand for Land
Solar parks require space and are supposedly in competition with agriculture, which cultivates food, feed and renewable raw materials there.
Here are some arguments why biodiv solar parks on farmland are only a supposed competition:
- 15-20% ecological priority areas (EFAs) in the agricultural landscape are necessary to achieve the national goals for the protection and promotion of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. This is according to this study by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation on the topic: Biodiversity in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU after 2020. 15 - 20 % of agricultural land corresponds to 2.5 to 3.3 million hectares.
- In order to protect and increase biodiversity, a nationwide biotope network is needed in the agricultural landscape. Networking between populations of organisms is only successful if the distances between the biotopes can be overcome. Therefore, biodiv-solar parks should not be limited to a few marginal production regions, but make sense everywhere - even on very fertile soils.
- Biodiv solar parks generate 40-80 times more energy / hectare than the cultivation of energy crops. Currently, about 2.3 million hectares are used for the cultivation of energy crops. Biodiv-solar parks make much more sense ecologically and economically.
If, contrary to expectations, there should be bottlenecks in food production, then it can of course be assumed that, in the interest of the common good, every biodiv-solar park can be converted back to arable land; even if a ban on the conversion of grassland speaks against this or flora and fauna worthy of protection according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act do not normally allow this.
5.1 Humus accumulation in the Biodiv solar park
Biodiv solar parks can serve as carbon sinks - albeit on a relatively modest scale.
The humus status of arable land is considerably lower than that of meadows. Arable land has humus contents of 1-4 %, while grassland has values in the range of 4-15 %. By changing land use from arable land to extensive permanent grassland in biodiv solar parks, an increase in humus content can be expected. This means an enrichment of 17 tonnes of carbon per hectare until a new grassland balance is reached. This humus build-up means a reduction in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide of 62 tonnes/hectare.
Even more positive effects result if farmland that was formerly peatland is re-wetted and becomes a biodiv-solar park. Rewetting would reduce emissions by 10-30 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per ha and year. Provided that rewetting is not impeded, a biodiv solar park increases this amount by its saved greenhouse gas emissions, which are 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per ha and year.
The necessary area for biodiv-solar parks can thus be well justified and does not represent competition in the cultivation of food and animal feed.
5.2 Agricultural photovoltaics (APV) versus Biodiv photovoltaics (BPV)
Agriphotovoltaics means: combined use of an area of land for agricultural crop production (photosynthesis) and PV electricity production (photovoltaics). APV covers a broad spectrum in the intensity of agricultural use and in the additional expenditure for photovoltaic plant construction. In principle, agricultural use is not changed by photovoltaics and remains in the foreground.
The economic analysis of APV is clear: it is uneconomical to reduce the maximum possible output of a solar park in favour of agricultural use. The contribution margins from agriculture only account for 2-3 % of the contribution margins from electricity revenues. (see also: TFZ Report 73)
For clear distinction of biodiv solar parks (BPV) on former farmland:
- The conversion of farmland into a biodiversity area with a solar park offers the greatest ecological benefit. See above arguments and the explanation* below.
- Biodiv solar parks on former farmland could qualify as ecological priority areas in the agricultural landscape, even though they are no longer agricultural land according to building legislation.
- Biodiv solar parks could be considered land in the sense of the One Planet Movement.
- The conversion of arable land into biodiv solar parks could lead to value points on the eco-account that are available for other construction projects and help reduce land pressure.
Explanation of point 1: If - for whatever reason - the PV modules are removed from the area, it remains a high-quality biotope and cannot easily be converted back into arable land. However, if it is necessary for the food supply, then this should very probably not be a problem.
This explicitly does not apply to an APV installation - agriculture can simply continue to be carried out there.
However, it is precisely the purpose of biodiv solar parks that they cannot simply be converted back into intensive arable land. The arable land converted into biodiv solar parks results in sensibly arranged corridors and stepping stones in the agricultural landscape which - completely independent of any electricity production - are intended to serve the interests of nature conservation and provide the urgently needed missing elements for networking existing natural areas.
Of course I know that the world is not black and white, but colourful. So there will certainly also be hybrid forms of APV and BPV. In my opinion, however, agri-photovoltaics in Germany is very questionable.
5.3 Bioenergy areas
Due to the considerably better efficiency and ecological advantage of solar parks, it is advisable to first use the areas that are currently used to grow silage maize for biogas plants. This could be done step by step with the expiry of the EEG support for the biogas plants concerned.
In 2020, a total of 1.55 million hectares of land were used for biogas. Of this, approx. 971,000 hectares were used for the cultivation of silo maize.
According to the current state of the art, about 970 gigawatt-peak photovoltaic capacity can be built on silo maize acreage alone, generating 970 terawatt-hours of electricity annually. Biogas plants operated with silo maize only generate just under 20 terawatt hours on the same area.
The technology of biogas plants can be further used in combination with solar parks from the surrounding area. This enables the necessary Power-to-X technology: production of e-hydrogen, e-methane, E-CNG, e-methanol, gas storage, feeding gas into the natural gas grid, demand-oriented provision of electricity and heat, use of the installed technology, including local heating grid, transformers and grid connection are possible. The fluctuating electricity supply from sunlight could be buffered with flow batteries (redox flow or organic flow) so that the production of e-carbon and e-hydrogen runs continuously.
6 What to consider
Below are some aspects and wishes for a successful implementation of the energy revolution with biodiv solar parks.
- Even spatial distribution of the facilities throughout Germany to create a biodiversity network that can be used by insects, small mammals and birds (Stepping Stone Corridors). Motto "Every community a biodiv solar park"
- Creation of financial participation opportunities for citizens in the vicinity of solar power plants.
- Simplification of the authorisation procedure where multiple use is ensured. Multiple use means: Biodiversity concept for species protection or agricultural use or a mixture of both = biodiversity agricultural photovoltaics.
- Adaptation of EU agricultural subsidies, the Federal Nature Conservation Act and building law to land use by biodiv solar parks.
In Germany, solar parks are an essential building block for the generation of renewable energy. They are considerably more efficient and ecological than the cultivation of plants for biogas production.
I therefore consider it advisable to use precisely this bioenergy agricultural land for the construction of agro-photovoltaics and especially for biodiv solar parks, when not only biodiversity but also very inexpensive electricity is important.
If we install more than 1,000 gigawatt-peak photovoltaic capacity in the next 30 years, then domestic module production is not only desirable but necessary. Researchers from Baden-Württemberg are showing how this could work with the idea of the self-learning factory.
8 Outlook for implementation in Germany
In order for citizens, farmers and municipalities to win, the implementation should be socially acceptable and oriented towards the common good. The building law for biodiv-solar parks does not fall from the sky, but is always made by the responsible municipality. The following applies in principle: the municipality can get involved with open-space PV plants. But it does not have to, because it has full planning autonomy.
This information (in german only) from the Competence Centre for Nature Conservation and Energy Transition (KNE) on how to proceed for municipal actors is exemplary.
The municipality could/should:
- Not make any hasty decisions.
- Build up knowledge, gain experience, seek advice. After all, a municipality probably doesn't do this very often.
- Inform citizens early and comprehensively.
- Enable citizens to participate financially.
- Take a basic decision and publish it. Ideas on what could be included can be found here, for example, from the state of Brandenburg: https://mluk.brandenburg.de/sixcms/media.php/9/MLUK-Handlungsempfehlung-PV-FFA.pdf. Basic decisions ensure that one moves from reacting to acting. They help prevent a gold rush atmosphere and horrendous lease price offers that can drive landowners, building authorities and mayors crazy.
- Take the project development into their own hands according to their ideas and then offer the area to investors who accept the community's ideas.
- Build and operate the solar park (incl. citizen participation) by means of municipal enterprises (e.g. municipal utility, municipal plant, virtual municipal plant) and thus use the entire value chain and increase acceptance among the population.
- Sell the electricity produced to the municipal utilities/community utilities/virtual community utilities by means of a utlity PPA. These sell it as regional green electricity to their private and commercial customers in the area. This way, the added value really stays in the village. Additional advantage: A secure utilty PPA partner reduces financing costs!
- To reduce land pressure on agricultural land, make biodiv solar parks mandatory if possible. These do not require compensation land, but overcompensate themselves if they find space on farmland. This even gives eco-points for other building projects!
- A suggestion so as not to disturb the market for lease prices too much: The municipality rents the land for 1,500 euros / hectare / year and leases it to the operating company for 3,000 euros / hectare / year to run the solar park. This immediately provides the municipality with income for other purposes.
- Take the 4 R's to heart: Regional development + Regional implementation + Regional operation = Regional value creation.
In addition to existing nature conservation areas and ongoing transnational biotope network planning, the responsible state and district authorities, under the leadership of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, are drawing up an area map for up to 100,000 biodiv-solar parks per 30 hectares on arable land.
In doing so, they take into account the goal of habitat connectivity, as well as the potential of biodiv-solar parks for carbon storage, water retention, soil health and pollination.
Operators of the biodiv solar parks being created there will be local cooperatives set up by farmers, residents, companies, public utilities, municipal utilities, virtual community utilities, nature conservation organisations. In this PV Magazine podcast, Andreas Engl explains how municipalities can enter the energy business with virtual community utilities.
Additional idea in the light of the climate catastrophe: Many of the new biodiv solar parks have water management systems: Rainfall is collected at the module table, stored in cisterns or ponds and can be used both within the biodiv solar park and on surrounding agricultural land.
8.2 Storage and distribution
With 100 % renewable energies, the volatile supply is decoupled from consumption through a variety of storage technologies (Power to X, P2X), because otherwise the renewables would have to be shut down very frequently or would not be sufficient during dark doldrums. There is only a guaranteed purchase and refit (see below) for the electricity generated if the electricity is completely sold to a Power to X operating company that is to be newly founded.This operator (shareholders are German citizens, federal government, Länder, municipalities, public utilities, nature conservation associations, etc.) is granted a state-guaranteed minimum return - similar to the transmission system operators - in order to be able to refinance itself securely and to cope with the enormous investments in the generation network including energy storage.
In return, the operator takes over all electricity from renewable plants completely and always and delivers it to transmission system and supply network operators in the form of electricity, e-gas, e-feels, various other forms (X) according to demand.The stored energy is distributed via electricity and gas lines, heating networks, ships, trains, trucks, etc.
The supreme discipline of waste heat utilisation to increase the efficiency of all P2X and X2P processes requires a very dense network of transfer points so that the waste heat that is always produced can be used and transported to the consumer with as little loss as possible.
8.3 Feed-in tariff
To make it very simple, I propose fixed tariffs for all green power producers:
- 2022: The feed-in tariff for the year of commissioning plus for the following 20 years is 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
- 2023 - 202 - 2025 ... The applicable feed-in tariff for the year of commissioning + 20 subsequent years decreases each year by 0.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
- 2050 plus the years following: The feed-in tariff for the year of commissioning plus the following 20 years shall be 2 cents per kilowatt hour.
After 20 years, each RE plant receives the feed-in tariff for new plants valid at that time for a further period of 20 years. In this way, continued operation can be calculated with certainty.
Biodiv solar parks receive 1 cent per kilowatt hour more if they prove their positive impact on biodiversity through regular monitoring (see also EULE-Project).
The principle is: power plants are operated as long as they are profitable.
These tariffs also apply to all other renewable energy plants if they come from the 20-year EEG subsidy.
9 Outlook for implementation in Europe
Due to the higher solar radiation in the southern countries of the EU, solar electricity can be generated more efficiently there. Exporting solar energy from the south to the north of the EU can be a sensible option, both economically and in terms of trade policy.
Keywords in this context: high-voltage direct current transmission (HVDC), European Supergrid, reduction of the trade surplus of EU northern countries vis-à-vis EU southern countries.
10 Further Links, Sources
My idea for a nationwide biotope network of biodiv solar parks was inspired by this video: Naturtalk FÜNF VOR ZWÖLF! - Artenvielfalt durch Biotopverbünde. An interview with Prof. Dr. Berthold. His recommendation is: Let every community have its own biotope and just do it, instead of waiting for further research results. My recommendation is that every municipality should have at least one biodiv solar park for a successful energy transition close to the citizens.
For a virtual visit of a biodiv solar park with Prof. Dr. Sabine Tischew and the biologist Christina Grätz there is this visit report from the PV-Magazine, issue November 2019 and these photos.
The selective bibliography of the Competence Centre for Nature Conservation and Energy Transition (KNE) "Photovoltaic ground-mounted systems and nature conservation" (In German only) offers an overview of relevant publications on certain partial aspects of the nature-compatible energy transition. It includes research results, action guidelines and position papers.
Solar parks promote biodiversity in flora and fauna, as a study commissioned by the German Association for the New Energy Economy (BNE) from November 2019 shows. An alliance of representatives of the association, planners and project developers would like to see this taken more into account in the planning of new plants and in the public discussion.
Biodiversität und Management von Agrarlandschaften (2020). Biological diversity in the agricultural landscape is in decline, so the National Academy of Sciences urgently recommends comprehensive action to counteract the loss of species in the agricultural landscape.
Ground-mounted PV systems promote biodiversity according to a new study published in Germany. Scientists collected data from 75 MW of solar plants nationwide and found the areas they were located in showed greater diversity and more intact habitat structures and found panels provide a refuge for animals.
Klimawandel und Biodiversität - Folgen für Deutschland, 2012 WBG-Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. More than 80 authors give a comprehensive overview of the consequences of climate change on biodiversity in Germany, which is seen as an important resource for mankind. The editors follow an interdisciplinary approach that includes all relevant disciplines from climatology, biology, soil science, agriculture and forestry to medicine and sociology.
The authors not only point out problems, but also point out the need for research, information and action, and make recommendations on what future action could look like.
Compulsory reading so as not to lose sight of the overall context. A very worthwhile reading.
In addition to this, there is this publication from the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation from 2015. Fachinformation des BfN zur „Naturschutz-Offensive 2020“des Bundesumweltministeriums. Status, trends and reasons for the priority objectives of the "National Strategy on Biological Diversity" (NBS)
Abundant Earth - Toward an Ecological Civilization, The University of Chicago 2019. Abundant Earth urges us to confront the reality that humanity will not advance by entrenching its domination over the biosphere. On the contrary, we will stagnate in the identity of nature-colonizer and decline into conflict as we vie for natural resources. Instead, we must chart another course, choosing to live in fellowship within the vibrant ecologies of our wild and domestic cohorts, and enfolding human inhabitation within the rich expanse of a biodiverse, living planet.
Sustainably securing the future of agriculture- Impulses and scenarios for ecological, economic and social sustainability – using agriculture in Germany as an example, November 2019, Boston Consulting Group.
This study was developed in close cooperation with Jörg-Andreas Krüger, currently President of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and former Managing Director "Ecological Footprint" of WWF Germany. Based on the current challenges of agriculture, the study offers for the first time a holistic overview of the external costs of agriculture. Furthermore, it considers sustainable agriculture as the first approach to reducing these external costs.
The Biodiversity Imperative for Business – Preserving the Foundations of Our Well-Being September 2020, NABU and Boston Consulting Group.
This study adresses the importance and value of biodiversity as well as the role of economic activities in contributing to biodiversity loss. It gives recommendations to businesses and other stakeholders on how to address the biodiversity crisis.
Biodiversity is essential for survival. Dirk Steffens and Fritz Habekuss show this in their book: Überleben - Zukunftsfrage Artsterben: How we overcome the ecological crisis. Penguin Publishing House, 2020
Learning from history? Frank Uekötter's "Im Strudel, eine Umweltgeschichte der modernen Welt" (Campus Verlag, September 2020). 700 pages - which have it all. A reading pleasure for fans of continual thinking who do not shy away from ambivalence and ambiguity.
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. The Netflix film to accompany the book. A wildlife filmmaker reflects on his life, the evolution of life on earth, the disappearance of untouched places in nature, and his vision for the future. (October 2020)
My conclusion: When I recall the image of the orangutan on the lonely remnant tree of the rainforest of Borneo, I feel not only sadness about the fate of this one animal and its species, but also a certain anger. From this comes energy that wants to go somewhere. "Time for outrage" and "Empört euch" are the consistent calls to Me and You and every human being. Stephane Hessel (born 1917) wrote these two essays at the age of 93 and 94. On a side note: Very interesting which vision of agriculture or food production Attenborough hints at in this film. Also my idea of a food production of the future goes to indoor- and vertical-farming. Bioreactors for the production of basic raw materials (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) are then just another step, which he appetizingly does not list, but which I explicitly see coming.
The One Planet Movement - The One Planet movement was created to maintain maximum political ambition for the fight against climate change and the protection of nature. It was launched in December 2017 at the joint initiative of France, the UN and the World Bank, with a clear purpose. Preserving the planet requires more commitment, more tangible decisions and joint efforts by all public and economic stakeholders. The movement supports international momentum, in conjunction with other major international events.
The benefits of networked biotopes are demonstrated by 3sat nano on 8 January 2020 in its contributions to the Insect Atlas and Biotopes. The presenter is particularly impressive in broadcasting minutes 10:16 to 10:31. He addresses a different way of shaping and promoting agriculture: "Farmers should actually be able to say something like: I produce five hectares of asparagus, nine hectares of lapwing and one hectare of butterflies." My addendum: Why not put up a solar park on the same hectare as the lapwing and the butterfly and achieve the energy transition and finance the whole thing?
KNE-Forum "Naturverträgliche Solarparks" - On 10 September 2020, the KNE-Forum discussed the topic "Solar Parks as Compensatory Areas? An important aspect was the discussion on eco-accounts and the question of whether nature-compatible solar parks can also be considered as compensation areas for other construction projects, which in turn require no or less compensation area.
In order not to be suspected of greenwashing, biodiv solar parks not only require good planning, but the benefits for the environment should also be measurable. How this is possible is shown by the EULE - project of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU). Project manager Andreas Engl from the Regionalwerke has been combining species protection and energy system transformation for years.
Handlungsleitfaden Solarfreiflächenanlagen: The guide is an important component of the solar offensive of the state of Baden-Württemberg. It is made up of various contributions by authors and provides information on the subject:
- Development, state of development and economic efficiency,
- Planning law,
- civic participation and
- the ecological design of photovoltaic and solar thermal parks.
In addition, the guide presents examples of how biodiversity can be improved in the course of the construction of solar parks.
"Solar thermal systems as biotope" information sheet no. 6 from July 2020, which is primarily concerned with solar thermal open space locations. The information also applies to biodiv solar parks (BPV). Dr. Elke Bruns, head of department at the Competence Centre for Nature Conservation and Energy Transition (KNE), points out the possibility of earning ecopoints in such a solar park. (Information sheet no. 6 only availabe in German)
In this context, Stefan Brunnhuber's books seem to be absolutely right:
In his latest book "Die offene Gesellschaft: Ein Plädoyer für Freiheit und Ordnung im 21. Jahrhundert" (published in February 2019) Stefan Brunnhuber describes how the transition can succeed step by step and with the involvement of the critical public.
In 2016 Stefan Brunnhuber already described a way to meet the global challenges as a society in: "The art of transformation, how we learn to change the world".
The director of the Wuppertal Institute, Prof. Dr. Uwe Schneidewind, on WDR's philosophical radio, is also worth listening to the question: What possibilities are there to deal with the seemingly unsolvable problems of the ecological crisis - and to make the process as meaningful as possible?
How does our society deal with farm animals and what effects does this have on the environment? The Protestant Church tries to give orientation. Among others Uwe Schneidewind speaks in "Diesseits von Eden" of 29.09.2019. WDR 5 ( 04:39 Min.)
Werner Bätzing describes in his current book Das Landleben. He goes far back into the past to sketch scenarios for the future of town and country.
After reading the book, city dwellers think differently about the country. A good book for appreciation and encounter of city and country at the same eye level.
The Deutschlandfunk reports in "Forschung aktuell" from 06.05.2019 in a radio report about the UN report on global biodiversity as well as about the topic of agricultural photovoltaics. Click here to go directly to the podcast.
In this report on the Bonn Climate Crisis Conference - June 2019, Deutschlandfunk in Forschung aktuell, dated 19.06.2019, provides a sobering outlook: Even if all the climate protection agreements of Paris (2015) were implemented, the average temperature of the earth would increase by 3 degrees by the end of the century. One more reason to seriously consider food production without agriculture.
How uncomfortable it will be in the year 2050, no matter what we do now in terms of CO2 reduction, is described here in detail. Understanding rhe climate crisis from a global analysis of city analogues. In this context, greenhouses on many roofs equipped with air conditioning systems fed by solar modules or by cold from deep boreholes could be or become a good idea.
Deutscher Wetterdienst, 2020: Climate Status Report Germany Year 2019, DWD, Climate and Environment Division, Offenbach, 23 pages
What is the situation regarding the achievement of the objectives of the Paris Agreement? The "Production Gap Report", published in November 2019, clearly shows this. It is not good if we continue like this.
Earth’s Future is a transdisciplinary journal examining the state of the planet and its inhabitants, sustainable and resilient societies, the science of the Anthropocene, and predictions of our common future through research articles, reviews and commentaries.
With the "Barometer of the Energy Transition" the Fraunhofer IEE annually evaluates the state of the German energy transition. The indicators selected for this purpose describe the energy system in its various technical dimensions: end energy, wind energy, photovoltaics, balancing power systems, bioenergy, power-to-gas, batteries, heating sector, mobility sector and investment activity.
On the basis of the actual values from December of the previous year, scenario modelling is used to calculate target values for 2050 and to identify target paths that will enable the energy system to be transformed into a 100 percent renewable energy supply.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) does research on methanol production from CO2. The project is called innovative cascade processes for the conversion of CO2 into fuels and chemicals.
Carbon dioxide neutral fuels from air and electricity. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the companies Climeworks, Ineratec and Sunfire combine the necessary process steps in a compact plant.
How this works with Climeworks technology on Iceland is shown by 3-sat Nano in 4 minutes. A broadcast from 19.03.2020.
The climate crisis represents an existential, global threat to humanity, yet its delocalized nature complicates climate action. Here, the authors propose retrofitting air conditioning units as integrated, scalable, and renewable-powered devices capable of decentralized CO2 conversion and energy democratization. Crowd Oil - not Crude Oil
The DLF reports on 8 May 2019 on how algae and CO2 become climate-neutral building materials.
E. coli bacteria engineered to eat carbon dioxide. Feat could turn bacteria into biological factories for energy and even food. Nature newsfrom November 27.
Deutschlandfunk reported on CO2 recycling on 4 June 2019. Production of fuels with the help of bacteria. BASF has recognized the potential of Lanzatech, the company mentioned in the article. Bacteria are also working on this topic at Electrochaea GmbH.
"Die 4-Promille-Initiative „Böden für Ernährungssicherung und Klima“ –Wissenschaftliche Bewertung und Diskussion möglicher Beiträge in Deutschland". Thünen Working Paper 112 In this working paper, the 4 per mille initiative is subjected to a critical evaluation from a scientific point of view. On page 16, at the end of the first paragraph: "The permanent conversion of arable land into grassland is a very effective measure for increasing C stocks in soils. A particularly sensible and long-term measure would be, for example, the conversion of arable land into grassland along watercourses (beyond the very narrow protective strips)".
For the keywords: humus, climate change, carbon sequestration, land use change, there is information and figures in this study from 2020: "CO2-Zertifikate für die Festlegung atmosphärischen Kohlenstoffs in Böden: Methoden, Maßnahmen und Grenzen" Quote: "Since grassland soils have significantly higher C-org stocks than arable soils, mainly due to higher root-borne C inputs, a conversion from arable to grassland is a very effective measure to increase C-org stocks. In the long term, the establishment of new grassland can be expected to result in an average C-org build-up of 0.73 t ha-1 a-1 (Conant et al., 2001; Poeplau et al., 2011). Further benefits are offered in terms of water protection, erosion control and the promotion of biodiversity."
An exciting report by Deutschlandfunk from 26.06.2019 on how CO2 could change from a climate killer to a valuable raw material. Methanol can become an essential component of the future energy world.
Critical questions and insights into the current debate about which type of energy system will need which energy networks in the future. Deutschlandfunk Zeitfragen with a revealing and very informative report on 28.01.2020: "Braucht die Energiewende die Stromtrassen wirklich?"
Local heating - district heating - energy transition - Learning from Danes - The Danish heating market. Making it easy! Short and simple on 32 pages by Tobias F. Langer, Logstor.
Store electrical energy regionally and make it available as electricity and heat. Lumenion does this with high-temperature steel storage tanks.
Facts and figures on agriculture from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
SWR2 Wissen "Der globale Acker" part 6/10. Less soy, less meat, more variety on the plate and the field - it would be a win-win situation.
Contractual nature conservation, greening, common agricultural policy, first pillar, second pillar, ecological priority areas and so on. You can find more information on websites of the EU and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
Is agriculture in a solar park eligible? This question is discussed in the judgment of the Verwaltungsgericht Regensburg from 2018, which clearly states: Yes, if the agricultural use is not restricted by this.
SWR2 Wissen "Der globale Acker" Teil 9/10: The experts agree that agriculture as a whole will become more ecological and that environmental pollution will be reduced by precision farming or even brought to an end by "smart farming" and "digital farming".
The conflicts between agriculture and nature conservation are strong. But the ecological problems are becoming more and more obvious. Expectations of the new German arable farming strategy are correspondingly high. A political balancing act is foreseeable. A report by Deutschlandfunk on 8 October 2019.
Digitisation in agriculture, when the tractor becomes the office. Agriculture 4.0 - a report by SWR television.
Current Facts on Photovoltaics in Germany from Fraunhofer ISE, July 31, 2019
Stromgestehungskosten Erneuerbare Energien with an outlook until 2035 from Fraunhofer ISE, March 2018. Due to the high learning rate of 15%, electricity from large solar parks will undisputedly become the cheapest electricity from renewable sources.
Mertens, K.: „Photovoltaik - Lehrbuch zu Grundlagen, Technologie und Praxis“; updated edition, Carl Hanser Verlag, München, 2018. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Konrad Mertens teaches photovoltaics and sensor technology at Münster University of Applied Sciences and is the head of the photovoltaics test laboratory there. His conclusion in Chapter 11.14 Photovoltaics versus biomass: Compared to photovoltaics, biomass requires about 50 times the surface area to produce electrical energy.
Is module production in Germany or Europe competitive? Two articles in the PV Magazine from March 2020 and August 2019 say: YES.
Informative article of the PV - Magazine online about the technology-open tender in November 2019. Also in the fourth round only solar parks are the winners. This time, however, not even one wind farm project has dared to score in the tender. The results of the joint tender rounds for solar plants and onshore wind energy plants on the pages of the Federal Network Agency.
In many countries and market segments, electricity from solar parks is already the cheapest form of renewable power generation. An EU-PVSEC PAPER from August 5, 2019
Prof. Dr. Görge Deerberg of Fraunhofer Umsicht commented on the annual electricity demand of a greenhouse gas-neutral Germany in a lecture at the annual conference of the Network Kraftwerkstechnik NRW on 27.08.2019 as follows: Energy system 2050: heat, mobility and Power2X: electricity demand GHG-neutral Germany: between 1300 and 3000 TWh (see slide 11 of the lecture: SEKTORENKOPPLUNG: CROSS-INDUSTRIELLE NETZWERKE)
This study by the Research Centre for Energy Networks and Energy Storage (FENES) at the East Bavarian Technical University Regensburg (OTH Regensburg) from 2016 offers a look beyond the horizon:
"METASTUDY, Analysis of cross-sector studies on the decarbonisation of the German energy system, On behalf of the Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH".
Author's note: In 2016, the authors of this study may not have been able to foresee that solar power plants in Germany can already be operated profitably today with electricity sales prices of 4-6 cents / kWh and that agriculture with farm robots can be possible in 5-10 years under, between and alongside the installed module.
Why we are morally obliged to help when someone's existence is threatened, read and listen to the two political philosophers Christian Neuhäuser and Arnd Pollmann in a report of Deutschlandfunk Kultur from 05.05.2019. In many situations in life, however, the question of a duty to help is more complicated than in philosophical model cases. What happens when we hear about need and injustice elsewhere? How far does each individual's personal responsibility go? How does it measure itself, and how high does the common good rank in relation to individual claims and rights? Should this moral duty be extended to every kind of existence - including the biosphere? I say: Yes!
All Pictures by Christina Grätz (www.nagolare.de)