July 9, 2024

Hayleys Solar Selected for Sri Lanka’s First ADB Agrivoltaics Project

In a pioneering effort to spur the country’s shift towards sustainable energy and farming practices, Hayleys Solar has been chosen to implement and execute Sri Lanka’s first Solar Agrivoltaics Project.

Designed and funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the pioneering endeavors involves coupling solar energy generation with the cultivation of agricultural produce, providing a two-fold means of harnessing land for productive output.

Solar Panels Over Tea Plantations

This game-changing project has been conceptually initiated by putting into practice a semi-transparent solar photovoltaic (PV) technology through a collaborative project with the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA), the Tea Smallholders Development Authority (TSHDA), the University of Peradeniya, and Hayleys Solar.

This demonstration project has been set up at the Hanthana Ratnasiri Wickramanayake National Training Centre in Kandy, where 85 kWp hybrid semi-transparent solar panels have been set up two meters above a tea plantation.

Installing solar panels above agricultural land, and thus generating solar electricity and harvesting crops in the same place, agrivoltaics, the combination of the two words that drives this project, is an enviable new concept that can revolutionize both the clean energy and agricultural industries in Sri Lanka.

By stacking clean energy generation and tea-plant harvesting together, the pinned solar panel with a transparent covering lets sunlight pass through and nourish the tea plants below all day, slowing down their photosynthesis, while also generating power from the clean, renewable energy.

Innovative Agrivoltaics Project Powers 19 Homes

The Solar Agrivoltaics Project is designed to generate sufficient electricity to power 19 households, with a 24-kWh battery energy storage system contributing to the national grid.

The facility includes a strategically placed LED lighting system above the tea plants, utilizing solar power to enhance plant growth. These LED lights provide targeted light spectrums beneficial to tea plants, consuming less energy and emitting minimal heat, thereby maintaining optimal growing conditions.

Additionally, the project incorporates a groundwater pump with a borehole arrangement to supply water for the tea plants and the nearby estate community, further supporting agricultural sustainability.

From Tea to Tomatoes

A large part of its success, according to Janaka Ekanayake, professor of forestry and environmental management at the University of Peradeniya, lies in its appeal to national issues of energy security and agricultural transformation.

‘Sri Lanka heavily relies on fossil fuels and has difficulties in the agricultural sector,’ he says. ‘The Solar Agrivoltaics Project generates more than 100 MWh of electricity a year and replaces fossil fuels, thereby reducing greenhouse gases. It also improves the use of multifunctional land resources.’

The project’s model could be applied to other crops including vanilla, tomatoes and bell peppers, and could benefit the farming industry more broadly. This initiative, funded by the ADB and the Ministry of Power and Energy (MOPE), emphasizes the strategic opportunities of integrating the use of renewable energy with agriculture.

The chairman of MOPE, Ranjith Sepala, and Dr Sulakshana Jayawardena, Secretary to MOPE, said that the project demonstrated the potential to transform land resource use for both food and energy production, and how innovation can contribute to solving multiple societal challenges and support a healthy and sustainable future for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's Agrivoltaics

Lohan Ratwatte, the state minister of plantation industries, called the project ‘a massive leap to sustainable development in plantation agriculture’. With food and energy demands rising and supply strained in Sri Lanka due to the unsustainability of fossil fuel‑based electricity, renewable energy resources are seen as a must.

The ADB’s professor Priyantha Wijayatunga, Senior Director of Energy, speaks of the ‘great potential’ of agrivoltaics in tackling issues of energy security and agricultural challenges in ‘land-constrained countries’ such as Sri Lanka.

The project is encouraging the scaling up of agrivoltaics as a model of sustainable food security and energy access, both locally and regionally’.

A Global Model for Sustainable Energy and Agriculture

Further, the project sets an inspiring example for Sri Lanka as well as medium-scale conducive agrivoltaics development countries in Europe and North and Central America that will unleash the full potential of this technology globally.

This cross-ministerial collaboration between the government of Sri Lanka and various private and academic institutions is the model to follow in similar such endeavors.

Hayleys Solar clearly is the way forward in kick-starting many such projects. The outlook for this million-dollar project seems bright, and future research and development in agrivoltaics will hopefully see many similar high-quality demonstrations such as this.

The groundbreaking Solar Agrivoltaics Project by Hayleys Solar is a turning point for a sustainable Sri Lanka in energy and agriculture.

The marriage of a solar farm and agriculture collectively making use of limited land resources to produce food and energy, while supporting a renewable energy objective globally – is truly unprecedented! It is certain that the Project will offer multiple environmental and economic advantages for Sri Lanka and its potential to be a leader for innovative renewable energy.

The success of the Solar Agrivoltaics Project in Kandy signifies the starting point of a continuous series of experiments and initiatives that ultimately will see the whole Kandy region, and quickly the whole of Asia, take on new solar powered energy, agriculture and livelihood solutions that foster a prosperous and green future for all.

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