Using solar panels, crop yields grow by up to 60%

Using solar panels, crop yields grow by up to 60%

If the goal is to decarbonize the country, what agricultural solutions can exponentially speed this up? “Among the models that today will not need incentives, arboreal cultivation between rows stands out,” explains engineer Rolando Roberto.
“Structures up to three meters high, sheltering sub-unit crops that benefit from a greater degree of shading and allow for high energy yield and agricultural yield.” Roberto adds that since these types of systems cost around €800,000 per MW installed (taking into account a system component of at least 5 MW), more complex solutions would only be feasible through access to a direct catalyst, justifying an expected cost 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 PV plants coexist with crops or agro-pastoral activities that do not detract from plant performance and can actually revitalize the land. This model, which can be defined as a standard agricultural system, which is largely implemented by investors and operators and which on average does not need incentives, is joined by another model, with the agricultural company in the center that wants to continue to carry out its activities and become greener. . In this case a more experimental technique, not currently widespread for large projects, is used with slabs four or five meters high from the ground. The two models are not in competition: the country needs everything ».

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the test

Nicola Rossi, Head of Innovations at Enel Green Power, goes into detail of a large demonstration project “Sustainable Solar Park” in an advanced stage of development, the results of which are presented at Sole 24 Ore on Monday. Carried out in Spain (at the plants of Totana, Valdecaballeros, Augusto and Las Corchas) and in Greece (at the sites of Pezouliotika and Kourtesi), this test is a type of feasibility test for agricultural cells on an industrial scale in which partners from all over the world participated in research, innovation, agriculture and industry on European level.

Yield increase

«We have carried out the tests on parts of the plant of between three and six hectares, sufficient for illustrative purposes, and to bring crops in between the chains of boards, wide enough to give way to the passage of agricultural vehicles; With our partners, we have experimented with different types of crops, configurations, photovoltaic, static or tracing technologies. We were able to show an increase of up to 60% in the agricultural yield and in the average weight of fruits for some species and an increase in the number of fruits of up to 30% compared to the control areas without cultivations. A microclimate was also created that reduced water consumption by up to 15-20% ». Crops such as aromatic herbs – rosemary, sage and green tea – horticultural crops such as peppers, eggplant and zucchini benefit from the higher yield; Strawberries and juicy ones like aloe vera. Rossi explains that the data has been collected and combined into a guide that will be the starting point for designing and building applications in the field, taking into account the specifics of each site and the interest of agricultural partners in developing specific crops.

The open laboratory

“By June, the first open Italian laboratory will start at the Bastardo factory near Perugia,” Rossi continues. “Here we will carry out voltaic agricultural activities, with crops such as saffron and fodder, and we will introduce useful species for insect pollination, and on bees, we will start an experiment with advanced monitoring technologies, in partnership with Italian startups and local businessmen. We will involve schools and research centers to exchange experiences ».

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