Solar panel fields help increase honey production in photovoltaic hives

A place where bees, crops, animals and photovoltaic panels coexist and thrive may very well be achievable.

In fact, modern solar technology combined with traditional techniques has improved the bee population and honey production in the Spanish town of Carmona, according to an initial report by Endesa.

In the town, about two and a half million bees coexist with sheep and aromatic plants in the middle of a solar installation. Run by energy company Endesa, the project is called Solar Apiary and is a shining example of agrivoltaics, the simultaneous use of land for solar energy and agriculture.

Sun, bees and “solar” honey

The solar power plant project, which started operating at the end of 2020, has a total of 250,000 solar modules that produce an overall peak capacity of 100 MW, which is enough to power 30,000 homes and prevent millions of tons of CO2. to enter the atmosphere. every year.

In this photovoltaic installation, the solar power plant project – 100 MW and 200 hectares – combines agricultural use – 3 hectares of aromatic plants: sage, rosemary, oregano and coriander – and beekeeping with 50 or 60 hives.

With a futuristic bee farm with innovative technologies and smart beehives within the photovoltaic park, beekeeping increases crop yield by increasing the degree of pollination. In a prime example, bees thrive in this corner of southern Spain, as reported by Juan Ignacio Lopez and his family, who keep bees and produce honey in Carmona, in a CGTN article.

“The apiary, otherwise known as a hive collection, sits in a wide expanse of wildflowers and plants that have been planted between the solar panels and allowed to grow naturally,” Lopez explained. “And that means no herbicides, no agricultural chemicals, making it a perfect habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.”

High-tech hives

The hives, which are monitored from a special control center, are equipped with a wide range of special sensors to measure temperature and humidity and ensure that the bees remain healthy. Hive entrances are opened and closed at certain times to regulate internal air circulation. In addition, beekeepers can remotely control honey production and even prevent theft thanks to GPS trackers. All this allows the production of “solar” honey.

And honey is not where the solar energy adventure ends. In order to reconcile sustainable land use and biodiversity protection at solar power plant sites, the company carries out many other activities. For example, some farms in New South Wales, Australia have found that sheep grazing under solar panels produce better wool and more, while studies suggest transparent solar panels on greenhouses can help farmers to reduce their carbon footprint.

All of this could promote diversified land use and improve ecosystem services, ensuring that land-intensive renewable energy such as solar power does not deprive local agriculture of valuable land in an era of fierce competition. for land that is also needed for food production and biodiversity. conservation.

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