In southwest France, Pierre Escudie owns a vineyard. To provide electricity and safeguard his fruit, he has installed solar panels on top of his plants. Many people in the neighborhood have noticed the effects of this year’s cold and hot weather on their crops. During instances of extreme cold, the grapes are protected by solar panels. They also shield the grapes from sun when the temperature is particularly hot. On cloudy days, the panels can turn, allowing more light to reach the crops.
The taste of the French wines is altering as the earth’s temperature rises, extreme heat increases, and dry and cold weather increases. Warmer temperatures allow the grapes to ripen sooner, yielding more sugar. “If we want to retain our native grape types, we’ll need answers,” Escudie informed Reuters at a vineyard close Perpignan in the southeastern France.
He believes that solar panels that rotate are the way of the future. Since their climate is changing, he stated, “We’ll need to do something…” “We thought 32 degrees Celsius was extreme thirty years ago, but today it’s 38 or about 40,” he remarked.
Agrivoltaics is a rapidly expanding technology. It covers fields and vineyards with solar panels. This allows farmers to produce power while also growing crops on the same piece of land. Several European businesses are developing comparable technology to cover a wide range of crops. Because of the reduced sun exposure, the crops shielded by solar panels on Escudie’s field had a lower sugar content. According to Alexandre Cartier, this allows him to control the level of alcohol in his wine. He owns Sun’Agri, a company based in Lyon that invented solar panels.
The panels also contribute to a two-degree increase in ground temperature. This shields the plant from frost, which may wreak havoc on winemaking. Compared to previous years, a late April frost is likely to decrease wine yield in France by roughly a third.
An independent power firm uses Escudie’s land to deploy solar panels. According to Sun’Agri, this generates enough energy to be able to power around 650 homes in the neighborhood. Crop quality takes precedence over power generation. According to Cartier, this translates to a loss of 15% to 20% of the potential energy over a year. Sun’Agri’s technology uses weather data to determine when to block sun or turn to provide more light to the crops.
Around 40 vineyards and small farms with a total area of two to four hectares are expected to adopt the company’s technology. Between 2022 and 2023, they will be located in southern France, the Rhone Valley, a major wine-producing region, and the Mediterranean. “When you’re in a climate-change-affected area, farmers are striving to survive,” Sun’Agri’s Cartier explained.