European Commission approves €1.7 billion for Italian agrivoltaics

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Italy is one of Europe’s most pro-agrivoltaics countries. Image: Enel Green Power.

The European Commission has approved a €1.7 billion (US$1.8 billion) scheme to support the deployment of 1.04GW of agrivoltaics projects in Italy.

Set to run until the 31st December, 2024, the funding comes in part through the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which was introduced by the EU to aid in economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission said that it is part of the efforts to support Italy’s portion of the bloc’s decarbonisation targets under the EU Green Deal.

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All of the projects will be awarded via a bidding process, and in order to be eligible must be operational before 30th June 2026.

Agrivoltaics (‘agriculture’ + ‘photovoltaics’) is the practice of using land for both solar PV and agricultural production in a way that optimises both uses.

The majority (€1.1 billion) of the available funds will be delivered through investment grants covering up to 40% of the eligible investment costs. The remaining €560 million will be paid through incentive tariffs to be paid during the operational phase of the projects, for a 20-year period. These will take the form of two-way contracts for difference, where the support will cover the difference between the incentive tariffs awarded in a bid process and energy prices.

“This €1.7 billion scheme…enables Italy to support a more efficient use of land by combining agriculture with renewable energy production. It will contribute to the greening of the agricultural sector and to the transition to climate neutrality, in line with the EU Green Deal objectives,” said EU commissioner Didier Reynders.

Farming and solar

Agrivoltaics has been on the EU agenda beforeIn October the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the Commission’s research service –  published a report which claimed that deploying solar PV on 1% of current EU agricultural land could yield as much as 944GW of capacity, significantly greater than the bloc’s current 720GW-by-2030 target.

Notably, the JRC pointed out that agrivoltaics technology allows for both the EU’s Solar Energy Strategy and Common Agricultural Policy demands to be met; solar deployments can continue whilst allowing nations to continue their mandated preservation of agriculture and farming.

In addition, Italy has been a notable market for agrivoltaics for some time. In August 2022, the government announced a €1.5 billion (US1.6 billion) scheme to incentivise agrivoltaics. The practice has also been prioritised in solar PV tenders in France of late.

Alongside the industrial advantage of dual-use land for solar and farming, agrivoltaics can also help with community opposition to standalone solar developments and in some cases preserve farmland itself by providing greater income and different land leasing options. These advantages were discussed in a PV Tech Premium feature earlier this year on rooftop agrivoltaics.

The practice can also have technical advantages. Transpiration from plants beneath solar panels can make them more efficient by bringing the temperature of the panels down, and in turn the shade from panels can provide wind and sun protection that can boost yield and productivity of some plants and open up new areas for cultivation.

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