Enel Green Power has begun a new programme to explore how to successfully integrate arable and pastoral farming activities alongside large-scale solar PV projects.
The collaborative effort will see the Enel subsidiary team up with universities and research institutions, engineering firms, non-profits and start-ups to carry out tests at nine pilot projects in Spain, Greece and Italy.
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The aim is to identify farming activities that can coexist with solar parks without having to significantly modify plant layouts, meaning project costs can be contained.
According to Enel Green Power, it will be necessary to develop a management model for both the activities tied to the PV plant’s operation and maintenance and those related to farming – all without altering the project layout, occupying land beneath modules and selecting plants that do not grow beyond a specific height.
“These experiments will produce a huge amount of data that will be compiled in an atlas to support future decisions, enabling new plants to select the best farming solutions and related business models based on the solar technology, the local climate and the analyses of the social, economic and environmental context,” said Miriam Di Blasi, head of environment and impacts mitigation innovation at Enel Green Power.
Tests are already underway at the demonstration projects, which are located at greenfield areas that were not previously used for agriculture as well as sites of decommissioned power plants that are being repurposed.
At the Pezouliotika PV park in Greece, the cultivation of aromatic herbs, flowers and mixes of plants capable of attracting pollinating species will be tested, while nests will be installed to improve the habitat of bird species. A range of crops will be planted at the test sites in Spain, as well as herbs, coriander, lavender and flowers to attract pollinators. In Italy, one of the two pilot projects, located at the Montalto di Castro thermoelectric plant that is being decommissioned, will feature bee colonies and potentially rabbits.
Another agrophotovoltaics research project, announced last year by Fraunhofer ISE, is exploring the potential for deploying solar parks on agricultural land in Germany to protect apple trees from hail and excessive sunlight.