If you are a wine lover, especially wines from France, then you are going to want to read this. Climate change is affecting vineyards in France (and around the world) and is making grape growing increasingly challenging. French winemakers have begun using solar voltaic panels to protect their crops from harsh weather caused by climate change, and it’s working. Here’s what you need to know about this new technology. (1)
French Winemakers Using Solar Panels To Protect Their Crops From Climate Change
There is not a single industry that isn’t being affected by climate change. In France, one of their most famous and most adored products worldwide is under threat from this problem: Their wines.
The winemakers in Southwest France have duly noted just how much their formerly Mediterranean climate has changed over the recent years. They get more extreme cold as well as more extreme heat. Heatwaves, droughts, and cold snaps are making growing grapes with the right sugar and water content increasingly difficult.
“We’ll need to do something because we’re moving from a Mediterranean climate to a semi arid climate. Thirty years ago we thought 32 degrees Celsius was an extreme temperature, when today it’s 38 or even 40,” said winemaker Pierre Escudie.
Solar Panels To Protect The Grapes
Warmer temperatures and droughts mean that the grapes ripen much faster and have less water in them. This means that come harvest, their sugar content is far too high. The winemaker then has the difficult job of trying to balance the sugar levels so that their wines aren’t all overly sweet. These temperatures and changes also mean that certain varietals that have existed in these regions for hundreds of years will start to struggle to even survive.
“We’ll need solutions if we want to keep our local grape varieties,” said Escudie.
The solution? Rotating solar panels to protect the crops from harsh conditions. They help to insulate the grapes during periods of cold and shield them from harsh sunlight during a heatwave. When the weather is more overcast, they can rotate to allow more sunlight on the grapes.
Agrivoltaics: A Piece of the Climate Change Puzzle
These solar panels placed over agricultural fields are known as agrivoltaic technology. Not only do they protect the fields and crops, but they also produce power on sunny days. In Europe, scientists are developing this kind of technology to assist the growth of many different crops – from wheat to fruits. (2)
In Escudie’s vineyard, the winemaker experienced much success with the panels. The grapes on his fields protected by the panels had a lower sugar content than those that weren’t. This allowed him to more easily control the amount of alcohol produced in the fermentation process. The panels also kept the ground-level grapes a couple of degrees warmer during the early spring, when a cold snap and frost destroyed much of the harvest in France.
“You can see that the vine has lots of leaves which are very green compared to the vine without any shade,” Escudie said.
Escudie partnered with a power company that installed the panels on his land. They then used the power produced by the panels to power 650 homes in the area around his vineyard. The agrivoltaic panels from Sunagri are set up to favor crop protection over power production. Their technology tracks weather data and tells the panels when to rotate to provide the crops with shade and when to give them sunlight. (3)
A Vital Step Toward Protecting Agriculture
At this point, most farmers around the world are just merely trying to survive. Whether you’re growing staple crops like wheat and corn or specialized ones like wine grapes or hops for beer, everyone has the same goal: Keep producing. Each farmer in every country is trying to figure out how to adapt their crops to a climate that is drastically different and further and further from the ideal. Do they continue to try and grow the same crops that have existed there for centuries? Or, do they change what they are growing to respond to the new climate we live in?
It is a very complex topic and no matter which route you take, it isn’t easy. Growing new or different crops comes with a massive learning curve as well as years with lower production while the new crops are establishing themselves. Adapting your current crops often requires huge financial investment in different technologies. Every season is another opportunity to lose your entire livelihood to extreme weather that is getting worse each year.
Technologies such as agrivoltaic solar panels can make a huge difference in the survival of many farmers. On top of that, they actively work to combat climate change by creating renewable, sustainable energy for the surrounding energy. The more we invest in technologies such as these, the better off our planet and economy will be.