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Renewable Energy Agricultural Multipurpose for Farmers

Final Report Summary - RAMSES (Renewable energy agricultural multipurpose for farmers)

Concerns about the gradual depletion of the fossil fuel reserves, as well as about climatic changes, have generated a deep consciousness that it is essential for humankind to develop new and clean energy sources. Within this concept, Photovoltaic (PV) energy appears to be one of the best options, particularly for the agricultural sector in sunny counties. When the issue of powering agricultural machines is raised, biofuels usually form the answer. In their present form though they need too much land, artificial fertiliser and are in competition with food production. Other forms of fuel, e.g. hydrogen third generation biofuels, are too expensive and complex for agriculture. Modern renewable technologies are much more efficient than biofuels in terms of land needed per produced unit energy. In addition, most renewable sources produce electric power that is compatible with cheap and efficient electric motors.

The RAMSES project aimed at investigating the potential for reducing dependency on fossil fuels for traction and electrical power in the Mediterranean agriculture. The main project objective was to develop a complete, renewable energy system that would provide both electric and mechanical power for agriculture, bypassing all problems related to the progressively increasing prices of fuels derived from fossil resources. The proposal would be built using standardised parts, which would be easy to find in southern Mediterranean countries, it would be easy to assemble, operate and maintain and would be powered exclusively by solar power, thus making its operational costs as low as the battery operating costs.

In order to reach the project objectives, RAMSES aimed at delivering:
1. a fully operational prototype of a power generation and management system consisting in a photovoltaic power generation unit where a battery power storage system was coupled to a agricultural vehicle propelled by electric motors;
2. an integrated all solar power system, using the solar system for a multipurpose service.

The project was structured in six distinct, yet interrelated Work packages (WPs). The first (WP0) was focussed on management and coordination. WP1 was concerned with specifics and market analysis, while the activities of WP2 were related to power system design and prototyping. Similarly, WP3 included the vehicle system design and prototyping and WP4 was concerned with the system's final testing and impacts evaluation. Finally, WP5 was related to the dissemination of the obtained results.

The achieved results established the feasibility of the project by a technical point of view and had a positive environmental and social impact. The economical analysis demonstrated the main constraints, since the assessed price of the RAMSES system was higher than other similar products found on the market. It therefore seemed very difficult that end users would be willing and able to purchase the proposal. In any case, the project and its innovations created a large interest through the Research and development (R&D) community of Mediterranean countries for the foreseen opportunities, given that the prospect of the RAMSES vehicle being adapted to function in various fields for different purposes was both exciting and promising in terms of broad scale sustainable development.