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Enhancing the sustainable production of renewable energy at farm-level

 

Many different forms of renewable energy are produced in rural areas, ranging from wind, solar (including agri-voltaics) and geothermal sources to different forms of bioenergy. Between these renewable energy sources and the environment, there can be trade-offs (e.g. land use change, biodiversity loss, air pollution) but also synergies. Small and medium scale installations can provide opportunities for new cooperation in production, sales and distribution of renewable energy, and thus, can provide agricultural communities (conventional and organic sectors) with an extra source of income, while contributing to clean energy supply for society. If well planned and implemented, such installations can be deployed without harming the environment, or even with positive impacts, for example preserving soils quality, contributing to water retention, avoiding methane emissions or supporting pollination.

However, the variety of options also result in complex considerations, as the potential, performance and impacts of renewable energy technologies depend on natural conditions, size and type of farm, approaches designed and implemented, management techniques, degree of mechanization, geographic location, and socio-economic factors, such as awareness ,about technologies and their implementation, investment and advice support for farmers, as well as the surrounding energy system and energy infrastructure.

Proposals will:

  • Analyse the different options to deploy renewable energy installations on farms, thereby assessing their environmental impacts (on climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and natural resources depletion) and identifying the best options to mitigate trade-offs and supporting synergies in light of the sustainable management of agricultural land coupled with production of food and feed.
  • Assess the opportunities for and barriers (e.g. financial risks and incentives/policies to overcome them) to combine agricultural production and different sustainable renewable energy technologies.
  • Engage with relevant stakeholders and develop innovative business models for farmers producing sustainable renewable energy, including self-consumption, energy communities or direct feed into the electricity or gas grid or collective sales approaches that could potentially enhance profitability for farms.
  • Analyse the potential of smart energy systems in rural areas and consider economically viable energy storage and transformation solutions for combined production of biogas/ biomethane, solar and wind as well as smart battery and energy solutions, including power to gas (hydrogen), thermal energy storage for self-use and grid stabilisation.
  • Address the nutrient recovery and minimisation of negative environmental impacts, or even co-benefits, in the context of good agricultural practices and possible sanitary implications.
  • Promote bioeconomy-related interventions in the new CAP and provide advice and technical guidance for Member States.

Proposals are expected to cooperate with other relevant EU-funded research projects, in particular ongoing projects under Cluster 5 of Horizon Europe.

Proposals must apply the concept of the 'multi-actor approach’ and ensure adequate involvement of the farming sector, and actors active in rural areas.