Two parallel and synergistic models: open lab and large-scale agrovoltaic

Two parallel and synergistic models: open lab and large-scale agrovoltaic

If 2023 could be the turning point for agrovoltaic in Italy: it is a win-win model, because it allows at the same time to combine business objectives of agricultural entrepreneurs, improving the yield of their land, with national and of the energy transition, contributing to the development of renewables in Italy. A greater presence of renewable plants in the area will allow Italy to gradually free itself from dependence on fossil fuels and achieve energy freedom. The development of renewable sources in Italy has challenging objectives in terms of decarbonisation starting from the objectives of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) up to the REpowerEU scenario, which envisages the installation of around 85 gigawatts of new capacity by 2030.

It is therefore worth going into the details of the planning for Italy of Enel Green Power, one of the energy operators, which is investing the most in the sector. A planning and operation that moves on two parallel and synergistic tracks. One implementation, with over 70 large-scale agri-voltaic plant projects throughout Italy, each of which has different stages of progress. The other more experimental, which will continue in our country the work started with the Sustainable Solar Park project, active since 2019 and carried out in Spain (in the photovoltaic plants of Totana, Valdecaballeros and Las Corchas) and in Greece (in the Pezouliotika and Kourtesi sites ). A sort of feasibility test on a European scale, which involved partners from the world of research, innovation, agriculture and industry.

The implementation: the large-scale agri-voltaic project

In the municipality of Manfredonia, in the Foggia area, Enel Green Power is developing a large agro-voltaic project. Currently in the authorization phase, it was born in partnership with the University of Foggia, which contributed to the analysis of the land and the identification of the best crops that could coexist with the plant, and the Maria Grazia Barone Foundation, owner of a part of the lands and which, also thanks to these, will be able to better support their social welfare activities for elderly people. Thanks to the agronomic studies conducted by the Foundation itself and the collaboration with the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, the plant species that can best coexist with the photovoltaic system have been identified: in this case cereals and forage legumes. In cascade, the coexistence between panels and crops could determine a whole series of other benefits, including partial shading of the crops, the reduction of the ground temperature, water saving (linked to the lower evapo-transpiration of the soil) and the possibility to obtain better agricultural productions.

Experimentation: the first Italian open lab

Nicola Rossi, Head of Innovation at Enel Green Power, explains that the first Italian experimental experience will be developed in a portion of the Bastardo photovoltaic plant, in the province of Perugia, and will start up by June 2023. «Here we are thinking of creating a focus on crops such as saffron, fodder, aromatic and medicinal plants. Their presence is strategic because it helps to create favorable habitats for pollinating insects which, thanks to their action, bring benefits to the whole agricultural ecosystem”. And it is precisely to bees, whose health is crucial for the protection of biodiversity and for agriculture, that a part of the project will be dedicated, «making use of advanced monitoring technologies, in partnership with Italian start-ups, local producers and entrepreneurs, and then involving schools and research centres, with the aim of sharing these experiences with the world that surrounds our plants».

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