New Study: Dual-Use Approaches for Solar Energy and Agriculture

Over the last 30 years, Viet Nam has managed a remarkable development of its agricultural sector and its energy sector. Recently, a new challenge has arisen at the nexus of both sectors, involving land-use conflicts caused by the increasing influx of wind and solar energy investments in particular. Viet Nam’s renewable energy resourcesare vast and largely untapped.

With the new support schemes for wind and solar energy, around 300 renewable energy projects are currently under development; among them 285 solar projects representing 23,000 MWp of capacity. The large and still growing number of new solar PV investment projects has raised concerns particularly in the Vietnamese “food basket“ provinces in the South with regard to potential land-use conflicts.

Solar PV dual-use or agrivoltaic concepts can resolve land-use conflicts between energy and agriculture production, by combining both on the same site. Developed in the early 1980’s in Germany, the concept has been implemented in a number of countries with hundreds of (mainly small scale) projects and applications.

Solar dual-use provides multiple socio-economic benefits that are mainly based on the key concept of the increased land productivity of the combined system, compared to the single-use of the same area of land. The increase of this Land Equivalent Ratio (LER) through dual-use applications has been proven by pilot projects in different countries.

This new study commissioned by GreenID Viet Nam analyses international experience with dual-use approaches and assesses potentials of this innovative approach for Vietnam. With the help of a case study in one of the Mekong Delta provinces and based on real agricultural production data from this province, the report assesses a realistic and short-term potential for the application of this innovative approach in Viet Nam.

Key findings:

  • The application of the dual-use concept in a case study for Can Tho shows great potential for solar dual-use. Suitability for solar dual-use (agrivoltaic) applications could be identified for nine agricultural and aquaculture products (rice, corn/maize, soybean, sesame, vegetables, cassava/starch roots, livestock, fish and shrimp).
  • Based on these crops, an overall “realistic”technical potential (as such realizable within the next 5-8 years) could be calculated for Can Tho. Excluding rice production, this potential is in the range of 700 to 1,100 MWp, equaling an electricity potential of1 to 1.5 TWh. This solar electricity generation would cover 46% to 70% of Can Tho’s annual electricity demand.
  • Including dual-use application on rice production areas, the “realistic” potential would increase to 7,500 to 11,300 MWp or 5 to 16 TWh. This amount of clean electricity far exceeds the city’s electricity demand and could thus contribute to the demand of the wider Mekong Delta region and further neighboring provinces.
  • Regarding the costs of solar power from dual-use applications, a conservative assessment was made based on assumptions derived from the limited available international data. According to this assessment, the solar dual-use LCOE are estimated at 9.07 USct/kWh in a base case scenario, with a range between 8.40 USct/kWh (low cost case) and 9.81 USct/kWh (high cost case) and therefore roughly within the range of the current FiT in Viet Nam (9.35 USct/kWh) or about 5 USct/kWh above the current avoided cost tariff for Southern Viet Nam (7.48 USct/kWh).
  • International experience shows that with the dramatically decreased costs of solar PV technology, the growing number of agrivoltaic best practice projects and the development of the dual-use application, this approach is a viable option for Viet Nam to avoid or reduce land-use conflicts related to the increased influx of solar energy investments and the pressure on land owners that comes with it.
  • To develop solar dual-use in Can Tho and Viet Nam in general, the development of a Dual-Use Roadmap is suggested. The most important element of such a roadmap would be the implementation of a Vietnamese solar dual-use pilot project to verify the suitability and potential of selected crops in the local agro-ecological context. Furthermore, a development strategy should include an institutional foundation such as regional Steering Committee or Working Group to integrate important stakeholders, to undertake advocacy work towards regulators or financing institutions and to raise awareness among farmers and other sector stakeholders.

The study was commissioned by Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID), a leading energy & environment NGO in Viet Nam, with funding from Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation Germany.

The study is available for download on the website of GreenID Vietnam. Or you can download it directly here.