Greenbuddies Tips – March 2022

Greenbuddies project in the Netherlands

Concrete roofs in Gozo have transformed into solar energy plants thanks to our Greenbuddies team

Our team oversaw the DC installation on the Maltese island of Gozo for our client “MyEnergy”. The project spanned over two roofs with different levels, with a capacity of 700 kWp. We have installed a total of 1578 modules and 6 inverters in two weeks, despite the number of days with strong winds, which are typical for this area.

Malta is a perfect country for producing energy from the sun, but as on every island, there are location obstacles to overcome. In light of Photovoltaic Installations aspiring to meet the country’s quota for carbon neutrality, most of these installations are placed on roofs.

Detail of Gozo roof project

This project was spread over two roofs, one of which lies on top of a water reservoir. Both these surfaces were flat, and this enabled a special type of concrete mounting system to be utilized. The support structures made by the Italian company “Sunballast” have a 10° inclination and do not require the fixing of the ballast onto the roof, saving a lot of time during the entire installation process. Moreover, these substructures have a high wind resistance which allows for a more resilient structure considering the nature of high winds in Malta.

This was our second project in Malta, and we believe that there are a lot of opportunities for building more PV installations there. One of the main reasons being that the Maltese government has issued projects of support for installations with a total investment of over 26 million Euro in the span of the coming 20 years. The country has a current aim to obtain 11.5% of its energy from renewable sources, but it strives to surpass this number.

We are proud that our Greenbuddies team has helped in adding another renewable source of energy to Malta.

Details of Gozo DC installation project

Global electric vehicle sales up 109% in 2021

Despite adverse market conditions, analytical research on the global electric vehicle market estimate that 6.5 million electric vehicles (EVs) were sold worldwide in 2021. This results in a sales increase of 109% in comparison to 2020. This EV count includes both fully electric and plug-in hybrid passenger cars. However, the total global car market rose by merely 4% in 2021. This is due to the continued struggle of coping with COVID-19 restrictions in relation to chip shortages. Moreover, EV sales represented 9% of all passenger car sales in 2021.

The demand for EVs remained prominent in 2021, but it can be argued that many more would have been sold had it not been for the component shortages still affecting every car manufacturer globally.

Illustrative photo, source: Unsplash

The following points provide an indication of global sales numbers:

  • 85% of EVs sold globally were delivered to customers in Mainland China and Europe.
  • 3.2 million EVs were sold in 2021 in Mainland China, accounting for 15% of all new cars sold.
  • 2.3 million EVs were sold in Europe, accounting for 19% of new cars.
  • In comparison, while demand has been growing, just 4% of new cars sold in the US in 2021 were EVs, some 535,000 units.

Graph of EV registrations 2020-2021, Source: Smarter E Europe

While purchase prices for most EV models are currently still higher than comparable combustion engine cars, electric cars are expected to reach parity with conventional models in the mid-2020s. However, the total costs of ownership (TCO) are more important to consumers and is already lower for some EVs. All this while considering how much it costs to fuel, maintain, and insure the car. The following graph shows the number of registered e-vehicles in European countries.

Additionally, strategically designed taxation is key to making electric cars more affordable. For instance, France, Italy, and Sweden have implemented the bonus-malus tax system that rewards vehicles that emit relatively low amounts of CO2 (up to 60 grams per km) with a financial bonus. The system also burdens vehicles that have high CO2 emissions with a higher tax.

Canalys, a leading global technology market analyst company, has reported that over 3.2 million EVs were sold in Mainland China in 2021 which is half of all the electric cars sold worldwide. Moreover, this is an increase of 2 million sales in the country in 2020. Various new car models are being launched every month within each important market segment, from tiny, inexpensive city cars to mainstream and premium sedans and SUVs. Additionally, 15% of new cars sold in 2021 in Mainland China were EVs, which more than double the percentage when comparing it to 2020, and there is still a large opportunity for future growth in 2022 and the years to come.   

Europe still boasts the highest level of EV adoption

Traditional car makers are increasingly electrifying their products in Europe. EVs represented 19% of total car sales in 2021 with 2.3 million vehicles delivered. The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling electric car in Europe in 2021, but Volkswagen Group was the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, with several models from Audi, Skoda and VW also having high sales numbers.

Sales of EVs in the US continue fall behind in comparison to sales in Mainland China and Europe. Merely 4% of new cars sold in the US in 2021 were EVs. In the US, several new EVs were launched in 2021 and sales momentum and consumer interest are increasing, however Tesla continues to dominate EV sales in the US with an estimated share of just under 60%.

Graph of the top electric car manufacturers in 2021, Source: Canalys

Agrivoltaics – a possibility for dual use of agricultural land

Agrivoltaics is now a term frequently mentioned in the media all over Europe. The principle of agrivoltaics is to use an area of agricultural land for farming activities together with an installed photovoltaic plant, without limiting agricultural production or having a negative impact on agricultural production. The aim is therefore to increase the usability of the area.

An installed PV plant on agricultural land has many potential benefits:

  • Additional income for the farmer
  • Protects crops from hail, frost, wind, excessive drying, torrential rain
  • A study by Clarkson and Wood proves that biodiversity levels are often higher on PV sites than on equivalent agricultural land. [1]

Installation of east-west photovoltaic panels on agricultural land, Source                                                                                                                                     Installation of photovoltaic panels over agricultural land, Source

There are essentially two options for PV installations. The first option is vertical panels with an East/West orientation and the second option is panels placed at a minimum height of 2,1 m (see photo above). The installation of East-West PV panels has the advantage of producing the most electricity in the morning and in the early evening when peak electricity demand occurs. The plant produces more electricity during the year when comparing to a PV plant facing to the South. Additionally, the production better matches the daily electricity consumption profile. In hot and dry summers, the panels also prevent water evaporation from the soil. The spacing between the panels must be large enough to prevent them from shading each other and to allow further soil and crop cultivation. With sufficient spacing, PV is not in any way a limiting factor to the crops.

The second installation option is where the panels are located on suspended structures and spaced in order to allow for sufficient light to pass through. This is known as ‘solar sharing’. The panels serve as a shading mechanism that is optimised for the crops. The installation can be tilted, so the PV can be adapted to the immediate conditions. In times of heat or drought, the PV provides shade and protects the plants from direct sunlight, reducing water consumption in addition to protecting the crops from hail. In freezing weather, PV creates a roof that allows the ground temperature to remain up to 3° higher than on fields without PV [2][3]

The energy that is produced can either be connected to the distribution grid or the source is used to supply electricity for:

  • farms
  • biogas plants (increases overall production efficiency)
  • irrigation
  • charging agricultural machinery
  • charging of electric vehicles (possibility to take power from the field to the road)

Across Europe, these new installations are expanding, and there are already known working installations in France and Germany. In Japan, the suspended PV systems have been tested for 19 years.

Energy consumtion model, Source

In the Czech Republic, it is currently not possible to use agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, but changes to the Building Act are also being discussed which should speed up and allow for the relevant processes. These changes are expected to realise the way to agrivoltaics. However, changing this law alone is not enough; not only would other regulations need to be changed, but especially the approach to the mixed use of agricultural land with energy production would need nudging.

[1] Clarkson&Woods. The Effects of Solar Farm on Local Biodiversity: A Comparative Study. [Online] In: http://www.clarksonwoods.co.uk/projects/projects_solarresearch.html
[2] Mgr. Jiří Zilvar. Pole stíněné fotovoltaikou – Agrivoltaika jako odpověď zemědělců na klimatickou změnu. [Online] In: https://oze.tzb-info.cz/fotovoltaika/19302-pole-stinene-fotovoltaikou
[3] Mgr. Jiří Zilvar. Agrivoltaika – řešení pro nová solární pole. [Onlie] In: https://oze.tzb-info.cz/fotovoltaika/19000-agrivoltaika-reseni-pro-nova-solarni-pole