Expanding photovoltaics (PV) in Germany involves independent PV system installations on buildings, structural facilities, or ground-level installations in open land areas. These open-area installations are often referred to as solar parks, consisting of numerous solar modules connected across extensive surfaces to maximize electricity production. Open-area installations can yield up to 30% more solar electricity than rooftop systems, making them vital for Germany’s sustainable energy transition. However, successful implementation demands meticulous planning, especially in selecting suitable locations and navigating permit approval procedures. In this article, we explore site selection and approval planning for companies aiming to establish PV systems in Germany, shedding light on the challenges and progress in this field.

I. PV Installations in Germany as of today

Germany has ambitious goals for expanding renewable energy sources, with solar power as a key emission-free and environmentally friendly energy source. According to the German Solar Association (BSW), as of the end of 2021, Germany had installed over 2.5 million PV systems with a total capacity of 59 gigawatts. Of these, 69% were building installations, including rooftops and facades, and 28% were open-area installations. The Renewable Energy Sources Act 2023 paves the way for further expansion of open-area PV installations. With the revised EEG, the annual expansion rate for solar energy is expected to reach 22 gigawatts by the mid-decade, potentially totaling around 215 gigawatts by 2030. The government aims to distribute this expansion evenly between open areas and rooftops, emphasizing the critical role of selecting suitable locations.

II. The Challenge of Site Selection

Competition for land is intense in Germany, with various sectors vying for limited space, including industries, agriculture, residential areas, forests, green spaces, and nature reserves. While PV installations on buildings avoid additional land use, openarea installations offer cost-effective and quick large-scale solutions for efficient electricity generation. These installations range from 2 hectares to over 135 hectares, requiring a minimum area of 20,000 square meters for economic viability.

The EEG specifies eligible locations for subsidized open-area PV installations, such as former landfill sites, military properties, highway and railway strips, former peatlands intended for rewetting, Agri-PV, and Floating-PV. It also empowers states to consider openarea PV installations in disadvantaged agricultural areas with poor soil or climatic conditions. From a nature conservation perspective, areas with prior disturbance and low ecological significance are preferable. These areas, including transportation routes, spoil heaps, high sealing or contamination levels, and intensively used agricultural lands, align with the NABU’s criteria for suitability.

Open-area PV installations often involve enhancing former military or industrial sites, focusing on soil regeneration and preventing groundwater contamination. While these areas have value due to their size and usage restrictions, they should be managed sustainably. These installations can also preserve habitats for ground-nesting birds and open-land flora and fauna, emphasizing ecological enhancement through structured improvements and tree plantations. Integration into habitat connectivity networks is crucial, addressing landscape fragmentation during zoning planning and environmental impact assessments.

III. Site Potential for PV Installations

What makes a site suitable for an open-area PV installation? Since the orientation of modules can be largely determined through mounting, there are minimal topographical constraints. Flat areas, as well as sloped areas, are suitable, provided they face south rather than north. Therefore, site selection is primarily constrained by legal frameworks. High-quality agricultural land may be less suitable, while ecologically valuable land may not be suitable at all.

Moreover, open-area PV installations are now being installed on actively used agricultural land in a way that allows the land underneath to remain usable and even benefit from shading. This is referred to as “Agri-Photovoltaics” (AgriPV). Agri-PV combines the advantages of photovoltaics with agriculture, enabling efficient dual-use of agricultural land. This approach offers various benefits, such as positively impacting agricultural yields, promoting regional energy production and utilization, reducing wind stress and ground-level solar radiation, and conserving water. Agri-PV installations provide a degree of protection against rising temperatures and extreme weather events like heavy rain or hail. Initial research results indicate that some crops can yield higher returns due to protection from PV installations.

IV. Approval Planning for PV Installations

Every open-area PV installation requires a building permit from the relevant municipality, a land-use plan, and designation within that plan. Typically, this involves revising the landuse plan and establishing a building plan. Comprehensive assessments of habitat and species protection laws, relevant protected areas, and flora and fauna inventories are necessary to comply with regulations like the Federal Nature Conservation Act. The approval process may become lengthy due to ecological compatibility and landscape integration assessments, with procedures varying by federal state.

V. Business Models and Incentives

Operators of open-area PV installations have various marketing options, including full feed-in into the supply network, on-site consumption, or direct delivery to consumers. Different legal and regulatory frameworks affect economic viability, with EEG 2023 expanding eligible land areas, raising support rates, and increasing bidding thresholds. Larger installations exceeding 1 MWp must participate in auctions conducted by the Federal Network Agency.

In summary, Germany has made progress in site selection and permit planning for PV installations, with continued government support and technological innovations enhancing efficiency. A record number of PV installations in 2022 underscores growing interest, with reduced installation costs making solar power accessible to more people. Careful planning and a holistic approach are essential for PV installations to contribute significantly to Germany’s sustainable energy future.

Progress and Outlook

Despite the challenges, Germany has made progress in site selection and permit approval planning for PV installations. The government supports the expansion of solar energy, and technological innovations have increased the efficiency of PV modules. In recent years, many PV installations have been successfully realized, and Germany is a global leader in solar energy utilization. The expansion of PV installations will continue to play a significant role in achieving climate goals.

For example, in 2022, Germany saw a record number of newly installed PV installations, demonstrating a growing interest in solar power. Technological advancements have reduced the costs of PV installations, making them more affordable for a wider range of people.


Site selection and permit approval planning for PV installations are crucial steps toward achieving a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply in Germany. It is essential to address the challenges while promoting public acceptance. With careful planning and a holistic approach, PV installations can continue to play a significant role in Germany’s energy mix, paving the way for a greener future.

seecon Ingenieure GmbH Projects / Case Studies on PV Installations

Space: Limited space constraints require smart planning and balancing different usage demands.

Example: Within urban development, brownfields and industrial zones are attractive locations for PV installations. Repurposing these areas can support urban densification and decentralize energy production.

Reuse of neglected brownfields and industrial zones.

Example: PV installations were placed on the roofs of old factory halls in a decommissioned industrial zone. This optimized land usage without taking up additional space, and the generated solar electricity was used on-site.

Open-Area Installations: Large openarea installations on agriculturally used land or former military sites can be an excellent way to generate solar power.

Example: A large open-area installation was built on a former military site. The installation was designed to not interfere with the intended agricultural use while enabling sustainable energy production.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (GIPV): Integrating PV modules into building envelopes, including roofs, facades, and windows, presents an opportunity to leverage underutilized spaces while fostering greater public acceptance. GIPV provides an aesthetically appealing way to generate solar electricity without consuming additional land. Architectural requirements can drive the GIPV expansion.

Example: Solar cells were integrated into the glass facade of a newly constructed building. This not only generated energy but also served as a design element, contributing to the building’s aesthetics and setting an example for other projects.

Public Acceptance: Engaging citizens early in the planning process and informing them about the advantages and impacts of PV installations is crucial. Organizing informational events and involving the public can foster acceptance. Transparency and open communication can address concerns from the outset and garner greater support from the population.

Example: We assist communities planning PV installations near residential areas. Early public participation allows concerns regarding noise, shading, and landscape aesthetics to be addressed and integrated into the planning. The installation is usually realized with the approval of local residents.

Public Participation: Public involvement is a crucial part of the approval process. Open dialogues and transparent information contribute to acceptance and reduce conflicts. Public participation should be conducted early and actively to capture citizens’ concerns and ideas, incorporating them into the planning.

Example: During the planning of a PV installation in a community, several public information events were held, allowing citizens to express their opinions and concerns. The feedback was integrated into the planning, leading to optimized site selection and higher acceptance among the population.

Consideration of Environmental Aspects: When selecting sites, it is important to consider environmental aspects to minimize negative impacts on nature and landscape. Efforts should be made to protect nature and promote biodiversity. Environmental impact assessments and the involvement of experts are crucial to ensure that PV installations are not built at the expense of valuable habitats or endangered species.

Example: Near a planned PV installation site, there is a protected wetland where rare bird species nest. Through extensive studies and planning adjustments, areas were chosen, and protective measures for endangered flora and fauna were established, allowing natural habitats to remain intact and undisturbed.