A2A needs your help to improve current photovoltaic configurations to optimize solar energy generation in agricultural settings without compromising or competing with agricultural production. New commercial solutions are needed quickly, so we are looking for designs that can be implemented within 12-18 months. Up to 3 winners will share in a total prize purse of $30,000 (USD).
The need for clean energy production is clear. To meet 2050 Net Zero Emissions targets (IEA Global Energy Review 2021 - https://www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2021), renewable energy production has to increase quickly. Meeting these growth demands will require building many new photovoltaic (PV) plants — they need someplace to go where installation is quick, and start-up costs are affordable. Open areas are a great location, but this can put solar installations in competition with traditional agricultural uses.
As pressure increases to meet Net Zero Emissions targets, land use competition also increases. It’s a WIN-LOSE scenario — but it doesn’t have to be!
An emerging strategy is to co-locate photovoltaic arrays with traditional agricultural land uses, a strategy dubbed “dual-use farming” or agrophotovoltaics. In agrophotovoltaics, both solar energy and agricultural crops are produced in the same space. Crops (or livestock) are cultivated beneath or besides arrays of elevated solar panels. This relationship can actually improve farming yields, but the costs for installing elevated solar arrays are substantially higher than installing a solar array at ground level — 38% higher per kilowatt hour (kWh) according to a 2020 study (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2020.114737).
Interested in re-thinking and improving the way PVs are currently done? So is A2A - we are the biggest Italian life company promoting the sustainable growth of Italy, and guiding its ecological transition. A2A operates in the production, sale and distribution of gas and electricity, district heating, environmental services and the integrated water cycle while keeping the impact on the environment to a minimum.
The world needs more solar energy production — but not at a cost to traditional agricultural land uses. A2A needs your help to improve photovoltaic configurations to optimize solar energy generation in agricultural settings without compromising or competing with agricultural production.
Breakthrough solutions will reduce capital and installation costs, align with current supply chains, work in diverse real-world conditions, and make life easier for farmers.
Achieving the Net Zero Emissions scenario by 2050 requires an average annual growth in generation of 24% over the 2020-2030 period, which corresponds to nearly 630 GW per year worldwide. This trend has already led to increased land use competition, and thus paved the way for new solutions that integrate the increased demand for solar generation with existing land use.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) generation is a great option; however, to reach the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, as outlined by the IEA Solar PV Report 2021, the annual deployment of PV until 2030 needs to increase fivefold, with a 24% annual average increase over the 2020-2030 period.
To meet these significant growth values, agrophotovoltaic — dual-use farming — is spreading as a promising solution to combine the increase in demand for solar energy with the agricultural use of the land.
The world of agrophotovoltaic is still in the development phase both for regulatory issues and technological reasons. Currently, there are no large-scale standard photovoltaic structures that meet the demand for:
minimum land occupation
mechanical performance, and
that can be deployed in farms without hindering crops growth and farmer activities.
This is a challenge and an opportunity. A2A is looking for help developing new PV configurations that use off-the-shelf materials to optimize solar energy generation in agricultural settings without compromising or competing with agricultural production. We think big gains can be made through innovating agrophotovoltaic elevated structures, so this is our primary focus for the challenge.
A photovoltaic system today consists of several components: photovoltaic modules, field switchboard, wiring, inverter, measurement and protection systems. For this challenge, assume that the photovoltaic system is the set of photovoltaic modules that can be placed either in series (forming strings) or in parallel or both. The structure of the entire photovoltaic generator depends on different landscape characteristics of the site, which determine the width of the panels, the height of the center of rotation and the distance between rows in order to maximize the energy produced.
Improving on the current technology means considering multiple factors:
Modularity: improved structures should be designed to have flexibility/modularity both in height and in width
Scalability: the concept should be scalable for different plant capacities / MWp
Minimum land occupancy: an ideal solution will allow machinery move in all directions
Neutrality: if a new solution requires the use of third-party trackers for PV modules, it should be “manufacturer neutral”
Mechanical performance: any PV structure will have to withstand real world conditions, including wind load and extreme events
Structure and installation costs: a new solution needs to be more affordable than the current agrophotovoltaics structures without compromising stability
How do I win?
To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at minimum:
Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements
Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
Be scored higher than your competitors!
Eligible solutions must at a minimum outline how they meet these specifications:
Modularity: improved structures should be designed to have flexibility or scalability both in height and in width so they can be adapted to different settings. At the same time modularity should be designed to facilitate assembly and minimize installation time and cost.
Scalability: the concept should be scalable for different plant capacities / MWp
Minimum land occupancy: solution should allow machinery move in multiple directions
Neutrality: if a new solution requires the use of third-party trackers for PV modules, it should be “manufacturer neutral” so it can work with different tracker manufacturers
Mechanical performance: any PV structure will have to withstand real world conditions, including wind load and extreme events (hail, heavy rain, and eventually earthquakes). For the proposal consider sizing requirements for installations in Italy.
Structure and installation costs: currently, elevated agrophotovoltaics cost about 38% more per kWh than ground-level installations. A new solution needs to be more affordable without compromising stability. A budgetary evaluation of the structure cost must be included
Runners Up (up to 2 winners)
Total Prize Purse
Based on the quality of the submissions, A2A may choose to reallocate the individual awards. In the unlikely case of no Winner and/or Runners Up, A2A reserves the right to withhold the Prize amount.
The challenge is open to all adult individuals, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Teams may originate from any country. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.
Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 09:00 GMT+2 on 2022-09-14. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.
This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You are not required to submit multiple entries, if that option is available.
Intellectual Property Rights:
As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement – Competitors, Innovator will retain all intellectual property rights to their technology. Should the innovator win an award, the Sponsor will require the Innovator to share a license to the intellectual property contained in the Submission. This allows both the Innovator and Sponsor to independently use the intellectual property for their own use.
Awarding of the Prize:
The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual’s or Captain’s name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains.
By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to adhere to the HeroX Intellectual Integrity Policy and promises to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
2nd Place, $6,000: "Tilt Solar" by Michael van der Bent.
3rd Place, $6,000: "Structure made by tensioned steel cable" by Jamel M’hamdi.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the challenge. While we were only able to recognize a small fraction of those who entered, there were so many other insightful solutions, we are confident that many of the participants will do great things in the future. Thank you all for helping make this challenge a success.
We would also like to thank all of our supporters, partners, judges, and anyone else who in any way contributed to our competition community. Without you, we would not have had the challenge that we did.
We thank you once again for your interesting solutions. It took us a little longer than expected to review all of your interesting proposals, but we trust to get back to you as soon as possible with the final evaluation.
In the meantime, we thank you once again for your great participation!