Floating Solar and Agrivoltaics

Solar power generation is an essential part of the energy transition. Such plants require large open spaces, which are becoming less and less available and less and less accepted. If the additional open spaces required for new plants are not (or no longer) available at the required scale, PV installations built on inland waters and, in the future, also on marine areas may offer a way out. Agricultural land that could be additionally used for solar power generation should also be mentioned in this context. Our experts addresse key questions about so-called floating solar and agrivoltaics.

Question: What is meant exactly with floating solar and agrivoltaics?
Answer: An agrvoltaic installation is a photovoltaic system that is installed either on a stand or installed vertically (so-called bifacial solar cells) on an agricultural land, thus enabling the use generation of solar energy and the cultivation of the agricultural land to coexist. The area covered by conventional ground-mounted PV systems can thus be cultivated and used in parallel for agricultural purposes. A floating solar refers to a floating photovoltaic system that is erected on a (usually artificial) unused body of water.

Question: Which particularities have to be considered when planning a floating solar or agrivoltaic installation?
Answer: In the case of an agrivoltaic installation, the planning effort and regulatory requirements are relatively high, as a project-related construction plan is usually required before a building permit can be issued (the necessary environmental impact assessment is also carried out as part of the plan preparation procedure). A floating solar installation is not a use of a body of water subject to planning approval in the sense of § 9 Wasserhaushaltsgesetz ("WHG" – German Federal Water Act), but an installation on a body of water subject to approval in the sense of § 36 WHG (in conjunction with LandesWG – "State Water Act"), so that ultimately a building permit (with concentration effect) must be issued.

Question: Does the installation of agrivoltaics have an effect on the agricultural premium in the sense of the DirektZahlDurchfV?
Answer: Yes, according to the current legal situation, the installation of agrivoltaics eliminates the (previously existing) entitlement to an agricultural premium (§ 12 para. 3 no. 6 DirektZahlDurchfV). The regulation is partly considered to be contrary to European law, but there has not yet been a decision on the issue by the highest competent court.

Question: Are floating solar installations eligible for EEG-subsidies?
Answer: Yes. Such a subsidy is initially based on the general eligibility of the systems according to § 37 ff. EEG 2021, for which there will be three annual tender dates on March 1, June 1 and November 1 (cf. Section 28a (1) EEG 2021). For the tender dates on April 1, 2022 and August 1, 2022, there will also be a total of 50 MW reserved volume for "special solar systems" (so-called innovation tender pursuant to § 28c para. 2 no. 2 EEG 2021), which shall also include agri/floating PV systems; a precise definition of the terms will be made by the BNetzA in October 2021.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.