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Solar power and batteries benefiting agriculture

A collaboration between Vattenfall and RISE is helping farmers who produce solar power to optimise their energy consumption.

Swedish agriculture is in a strong position to produce solar power. Farms have large roof areas and farmers are accustomed to calculating and making long-term investments.

Having said that, the production and consumption of electricity are often out of step. While energy consumption is at its greatest during milking in the mornings and evenings, most solar power is generated in the middle of the day.

“When the production of electricity cannot be steered, this can be dealt with in two ways; by storage or user flexibility. We want to meet future needs and assist our customers to optimise their energy consumption. This is why we wanted to conduct a pilot project to see how networked batteries function in reality,” explains Magnus Berg, R&D portfolio manager at Vattenfall working on new customer solutions.

After a planning phase executed with RISE, a 30 kWh battery was installed in autumn 2017, complete with a control system and linked to the electricity grid. The chosen facility was located on a small dairy farm with 40 dairy cows and 40 ewes outside Kilafors, which already uses solar cells. This allowed home-produced electricity to be stored for later use as required.

“When installing in a real-world environment, one comes across a great many practicalities; what does the insurance company have to say about it? Or the fire service? There is no complete regulatory framework for stationary batteries; instead, we were forced to rely on industry standards, either existing or those being prepared in various countries,” says Magnus Berg.

Magnus Berg
Photo: Vattenfall/Ola Johansson
Magnus Berg develops new solutions at Vattenfall.

After almost a year of operation, Vattenfall is in a position to assess the results.

“There are different types of benefits. Farmers has been able to increase their use of home-produced electricity instead of selling it on. They have also been able to reduce their peak use, the periods when they purchase the most electricity.

This has provided farmers with the opportunity to reduce their hedging somewhat, which reduces costs. They are also able to buy more electricity at low spot prices. One potential benefit is having the battery available as a backup generator in the event of a power cut, a situation that all farmers need to be able to deal with.”

Why did you engage the services of RISE?

“We were looking for help in identifying a suitable farm and wanted to use RISE’s network. RISE has contributed expertise in the field of agriculture, including in the form of a pilot study prior to the start of the project, although they have also been involved in other elements of the project,” says Magnus Berg.

In a subproject being managed by RISE, a number of farmers are being interviewed to obtain a better idea of how they view the use of batteries in their operations. Results will be available by the end of 2018.

Published: 2018-10-26