Pilot project for a fossil free and electrified vegetation maintenance in solar parks receives government funding
Husqvarna, Alight and SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) have joint forces on a pilot project that aims to develop and validate autonomous electrified cutting of vegetation in a solar parks utility scale in attempt to remove fossil fuels from solar park maintenance. The project, which is the first of its kind, has received over 4 million SEK in funding from Vinnova (Sweden’s Innovation Agency).
Green innovation to remove fossil fuels and in the long run completely switch to the use of renewable energy, is in growing demand. Large solar parks have a potential to be fully fossil free, but they need to be managed by cutting the vegetation to avoid shading the panels, which results in production falls, and to avoid that woody vegetation damages the solar panels. Those mowers and machines are currently generally powered by diesel, but could now be replaced by new technology.
This project is the first of its kind within fossil free mobile work machines deployed in solar parks and will stretch through August 2020 – December 2022. The project consists of knowledge building, implementation, execution and evaluation, and is now in the first phase. The implementation of the autonomous mower in the solar park will happen in the spring 2022. Researchers at SLU will collect data on site during the whole trial period to generate new knowledge about how it can create added value in the form of biodiversity.
Harald Överholm, CEO of Alight, says “For a sustainable and fossil free future we need not only a rapid transition to and addition of new renewable energy, but also that the industry applies tech innovations to replace work machines run on fossil fuels with electrified machines. I am very proud to set bold ambitions for green innovation by testing new solutions in partnerships with industry leaders like Husqvarna and having researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences evaluating and qualifying the results. The solar energy industry is growing rapidly and we hope the results can be applied across the industry to optimize the management of solar parks from both an economic and environmental point of view”.
Glen Instone, President Husqvarna Division, says “We are excited to participate in this pilot, as it is very much in line with our own ambitions for the coming years – to help our customers make more sustainable choices by offering a broader range of products that are electric, smart and autonomous. This will require a lot of investments into new product development from our side, and this pilot offers an excellent opportunity to take a leap in the right direction. We are excited to test some of our latest innovations in the field next year, together with such knowledgeable partners as Alight and SLU”.
Tobias Emilsson, researcher at SLU, says “Within this project we are developing new knowledge in an exciting rapidly growing field together with leading industry partners. We will likely see a continued expansion of solar parks in Sweden and it is therefore important to find ways to manage vegetation at a reasonable cost at the same time as achieving high energy production and sustained ecosystem service provision such as e.g. biodiversity”.
Alight builds, operates and owns solar projects, onsite and offsite, offering better power to large corporations at a predictable, competitive rate. With a focused team specializing in solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA), we are dedicated to bringing success to the corporations we partner with through solar power. Alight has 46 solar assets under management or construction and a pipeline of 500 MW across Europe.
About Husqvarna Group
Husqvarna Group is a global leading producer of outdoor power products and innovative solutions for forest, park and garden care. Products include chainsaws, trimmers, robotic lawn mowers and ride-on lawn mowers. The Group is also the European leader in garden watering products and a global leader in cutting equipment and diamond tools for the construction and stone industries. The Group’s products and solutions are sold under brands including Husqvarna, Gardena, McCulloch, Flymo, Zenoah and Diamant Boart via dealers and retailers to consumers and professionals in more than 100 countries. Net sales in 2020 amounted to SEK 42bn and the Group has around 12,400 employees in 40 countries.
SLU is a world-class international university with research, education and environmental assessment within the sciences for sustainable life. Within its field, SLU conducts education, research and environmental monitoring and assessment in collaboration with society at large. SLU has its principal sites at Alnarp, Uppsala and Umeå, but a lot of activities are conducted at research stations, experimental and educational facilities spread out across Sweden. In total 4200 full time students are enrolled in education activities. SLU has around 3000 full time employees.