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With solar panels the crop yield grows up to 60%

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With solar panels the crop yield grows up to 60%

If the goal is the decarbonization of the country, what are the agrovoltaic solutions that can massively accelerate it? «Among the models that today would not require incentives, the inter-row arboreal cultivation stands out», explains the engineer Rolando Roberto.
«Structures up to three meters high, which house crops in the sub-module that benefit from a greater degree of shading and allow for a high energy and agricultural yield». Roberto adds that these types of systems cost around 800,000 euros per installed megawatt (considering a system component of at least 5 megawatts), more complex solutions would be convenient only by accessing a direct incentive, which would justify an expected expense of up to 50% more .

Two models

«The word agrivoltaic contains a world – begins Eleonora Petrarca, head of business development for Italy at Enel Green Power – but we can imagine two poles of planning. The first takes the form of sites where large-scale photovoltaic plants coexist with crops or agro-pastoral activities which do not detract from the performance of the plant and can actually revitalize the land. This model, definable as standard agrivoltaic, largely carried out by investors and operators and which on average does not need incentives, is joined by another, with the agricultural company at the center which wants to continue to carry out its activities and become more greens. In this case, a more experimental technology is used, currently not widespread for large-scale projects, with panels four or five meters high from the ground. The two models are not in competition: the country needs everything».

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He tests

Nicola Rossi, Head of Innovation at Enel Green Power, goes into the details of the large “Sustainable Solar Park” demonstration project in an advanced stage of development, the results of which are previewed in the Sole 24 Ore on Monday. Held in Spain (in the Totana, Valdecaballeros, Augusto and Las Corchas plants) and in Greece (in the Pezouliotika and Kourtesi sites), this is a sort of feasibility test of agrivoltaics on an industrial scale which involved partners from all over the world of research, innovation, agriculture and industry at European level.

The increase in yield

«We conducted the tests on portions of the plant from three to six hectares, sufficient for demonstration purposes, inserting the crops between the strings of panels, wide enough to leave room for the transit of agricultural vehicles; together with our partners we have experimented with various types of crops, configurations and photovoltaic, fixed or tracking technologies. We have come to demonstrate an increase of up to 60% in the agricultural yield and in the average fruit weight of some species and an increase in number of fruits up to 30%, compared to the control areas without plantings. A microclimate has also been created which has reduced water consumption by up to 15-20%». Crops such as aromatic herbs – rosemary, sage and green tea – horticultural crops such as peppers, aubergines and courgettes benefit from the higher yield; strawberries and succulents such as aloe. Rossi explains that the data has been collected and integrated into a manual which will be the starting point for designing and building the applications in the field, taking into account the specificities of each site and the interest of agricultural partners in developing certain crops.

L’Open Lab

«By June, the first Italian open lab will start at the Bastardo plant, near Perugia», continues Rossi. «Here we will carry out agri-voltaic activities, with crops such as saffron and forage, we will introduce species useful for pollinating insects and, on bees, we will start an experiment with advanced monitoring technologies, in partnership with Italian startups and local entrepreneurs. We will involve schools and research centers to share experiences».

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