IBS ENERGY is glad to announce that, in addition to the ground – mounted photovoltaic, they started developing agrivoltaic projects . The agrivoltaic, also known as agrophotovoltaic, came to Italy thanks to the contribution of the Italian company REM TEC SRL .
The agrivoltaic allows more energy production than the ground-mounted photovoltaic, through high integration and environmental sustainability, compatibility with the agricultural activity, landscape protection, and avoiding land consumption, too .
This is possible by means of the latest technological solutions and solar tracking with photovoltaic panels at a height of about 14 ft ( 4,5 meters ), and connected to each other wirelessly, that is, through a system of remote control and communication and a mobile and flexible structure, that does not clutter up the room, is made of recyclable materials, and does not take away space from the arable land .
The photovoltaic panels, by virtue of a remote control, can be:
- perpendicular to the land, not only to allow a homogenous distribution of rain and snow, but also to prevent any damage in case of hail or strong wind ;
- parallel to the land, for easy access and circulation of agricultural machinery .
To minimize the shading in the agrivoltaic and ensure maximum lighting to the land below, the arrangement of the panels is optimized and the poles on which the structure rests are placed at a distance of almost 40 ft ( 12 meters) from each other .
The agrivoltaic can promote the short food supply chain, with products that are sustainable, offering the local community agricultural products which come from organic farming and clean energy ( could be similar to net metering ).
MORE INFORMATION ON THE AGRIVOLTAIC :
A GUIDE TO THE AGRIVOLTAIC
WHAT IS THE AGRIVOLTAIC ?
There is a new challenge, that in the future will reward companies that will provide solutions able to integrate the agro – zoological activities within photovoltaic systems .
AGRIVOLTAIC : A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH
A possible greenhouse gas reduction in the agrivoltaic sector, a challenge addressed to worldwide innovative companies, is still being experimented . It is fundamental to create a coexistence of photovoltaic and local agricultural in which no space destined for food production or grazing purposes is occupied . This would be an added value to the community, with a territory diversification, making a profit and generating clean energy, too .
You may have wondered, while driving throughout Italy and catching sight of solar panels, if it is technically possible to cultivate land under them . Well, this is a reality by now: for a long time now in Central Europe and the USA, and recently in Italy, too . The agrivoltaic is an innovative and efficient system that has the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing clean energy respecting nature .
A new way of cultivating is born, the so-called ‘’ Agrivoltaic ’’.
Agriculture + Photovoltaic = AGRIVOLTAIC
This sum, until a while ago, was affected by the high costs of the structures and the panels . And today because of a considerable reduction of prices, linked to the research and development of new materials, it is possible to use an innovative and efficient system . Still using the same surface, the agrivoltaic combines electricity production with the agricultural activity .
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND, FROM THE PHOTOVOLTAIC TO THE AGRIVOLTAIC
While the photovoltaic effect and the photovoltaic panels were discovered by the french Alexander Edmond Bécquerel in 1839, the first working selenium solar cell was created by the american Charles Fritz in 1883 . And Albert Einstein proposed a new quantum theory of light and explained the photoelectric effect in a landmark paper, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 .
And well, a lot of progress has been made since then . However, in the conventional photovoltaic, that is the ground – mounted photovoltaic, land cultivation is not possible yet as the panels are way too close to the land .
As time passed by, as plants proliferated and also due to country incentives and feed-in tariff, people had started realizing that fields not in use kept on increasing . Nowadays, in regions like Apulia and Sicily, there are more authorization processes as people fear panels may take room from the agriculture surface .
Then why not combining them ? Indeed, the agrivoltaic produces energy and at the same time cultivates land, and therefore leaves the way clear for farm machines .
Italy is new to the agrivoltaic : it first arrived in 2009 in Mola di Bari, Apulia, where agrivoltaic systems were installed above vineyards ; reaching 55 hectares in 2013 in Mantua, Lombardy and Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, with photovoltaic plants installed at a height of 5 meters ( about 16 ft ) and at a 12 meters ( about 39 ft ) distance to facilitate cultural operations, to clear the way for farm machines and to reduce the shading .
In Italy, an alternative to the ground-mounted photovoltaic is the so called ‘’ photovoltaic greenhouse ’’, thanks to state incentives. How does it work? One needs to find an available greenhouse with specific bankability requirements that make it similar to an industrial covering, and by virtue of photovoltaic panels it becomes a greenhouse photovoltaic . The biggest one is in Suscioffu, in the province of Cagliari, in Sardinia .
AGRIVOLTAIC AND REQUIREMENTS TO CULTIVATE :
- LOGISTICS : planning stage. One has to organize the panels properly to clear the way for farm machines ;
- CLIMATE CONDITIONS AND SAFETY : climate conditions have to be taken into consideration ; for safety reasons the photovoltaic panels have to be secured in place . For example, strong winds may let the panels fall and would also be a risk for the workers ;
- CULTIVATION OPTIMIZATION : analyzing the climate and microclimate conditions, determined by the panels, that allow the optimization of cultivations depending on the type of cultivation and the agronomic characteristics of the land .
TYPES OF CONFIGURATION :
- STATIC CONFIGURATION : the inclination of the panels cannot be modified . Upsides : simplicity, the most affordable, the most reliable . Downsides : limitation of plant varieties, no control on the shadows created ;
- DYNAMIC CONFIGURATIONS ( solar tracking technology ) : one can modify the panels orientation . Upsides : possibility to regulate the shade, vertical inclination to avoid any damages, horizontal orientations to protect against hail and freezing temperatures during the night, increase of the performance of the panels as they can face the sun, and therefore optimizing energy production .
BENEFITS OF AGRIVOLTAICS :
- For the agricultural land : as the photovoltaic modules increase soil mosture, in summer roots are more hydrated . There also are advantages for apiculture, as plants grow around the modules and no pesticides are used . There is less pollution, an advantage for bees, and less fungicide ( used to fight against plants parasites ), too .
- Rangeland : sheep graze in the land, near to photovoltaic installations: the grass is low and one can take advantage of the shading .
- Organic cultivations : low water consumption cultivations, optimization of the harvest from a quantitative / qualitative point of view, high profitability and more jobs .
- Farmers increase their profit margin : innovative methodologies, technologies and cultures, and therefore new business models and new opportunities for agriculture .
AGRIVOLTAIC : WHAT AMERICAN LANDS HAVE TAUGHT US
Although in Italy there is not much experience in this sector, there are some countries that serve as example, among these there is America . Arizona studies show that the agrivoltaic has great microclimate advantages : while in summer the land temperature below the modules is lower, in winter there is a mitigation of very low temperatures, reduction of water evaporation and cleaner energy .
Some Non – profit organizations want the Governments to encourage greater synergies between agriculture and photovoltaic, also thanks to government incentives, to achieve the international targets of the Paris Agreement and the national targets for 2030 set by the Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate ( PNIEC ) . The main objective is to stop climate change . To do so, to reach 32GWP of new solar plants by 2030, it is important to aim for renewable sources . To achieve these goals plants on roofs are not enough . In fact, great utility-scale plants are needed .
These organizations strongly want the realization of great ground – mounted photovoltaics to be enhanced, hoping for no more legislative measures that would block the installation of photovoltaic plants on agricultural lands .
New photovoltaic installations move forward slowly to guarantee the 32GWP set by PNIEC . Therefore, there must be more photovoltaic installations on roofs, in unused areas, ex – carries, landfills, revamping and repowering of the already existing plants . Also, the authorization procedure of the utility – scale ground-mounted photovoltaic plants has to be simplified, in unused agricultural areas, near to infrastructures, consciously using the agrivoltaic, ensuring land biodiversity . In substance, thanks to the agrivoltaic, energy production and cultivation coexist, with advantages to the community and to the farmer, who has an additional income that will help their agricultural activity .
The low costs of panels and installations and the constant technologic and efficiency improvement allow the realization of Grid Parity / Market parity ground-mounted photovoltaic plants with no government incentives . If there are any incentives, in case of unused areas or reclaimed lands, due to the bureaucrats normative problems and delay in the reclaiming there are no tenders .
Furthermore, unless there are specific Regional laws, one can install photovoltaic systems in agricultural areas with no restrictions, ( even though one cannot use incentives by means of auctions ), giving the Regions and Local Authorities the job to restrict the possibility of installing plant thanks to targeted measures .
Therefore, some new parameters would be useful to regulate new installations on agricultural lands, protecting the agricultural activity and stimulating the agrivoltaic, also known as agriphotovoltaic .