China-based internet information services provider Baofeng Group is in the process of expanding the capacity of a 640 MW solar park in the Binhe New District on the eastern banks of the Yellow River in the Ningxia Province to 1 GW. As part of this giant project, the company is combining PV power generation with the production of goji berries, which are an ingredient in traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese medicine.

Huawei is providing the inverters for the project. The Baofeng Group began managing 107 square kilometers of desertified land in the area 2014, and it initially planted alfalfa to improve the soil. The perennial flowering plant was then removed to enable the construction of the solar plants and, upon its completion, goji berries were planted underneath the panels. This helped resume goji farming in the region, which in turn revived an otherwise dead expanse of desert.

The first 640 MW section of the project, which relies on 13,000 Huawei smart string inverters, was grid-connected under China’s feed-in tariff (FiT) programme for solar energy in 2016. The solar power plant is said to effectively reduce land moisture evaporation by between 30 and 40 per cent. The vegetation coverage has purportedly increased by 85 per cent while significantly improving the regional climate.

The panels were installed at a height of 2.9 m, which not only offers enough room for the cultivation of goji berries, but also ensures optimal operation and maintenance activities. The timeline for project completion has not been announced.

REGlobal’s Views: Many research studies have indicated that the shade from solar panels can help produce two or three times more fruit and vegetables than conventional agriculture setups. Several companies are experimenting with this project set up across the world and the results have been promising so far. Agriphotovoltaics, as it is commonly termed as, seems to have a bright future.