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Energy Focus Agrivoltaic Plants Guidelines

08 July 2022

On 27 June 2022, the Ministry of Ecological Transition – Energy Departement (hereinafter the "MITE") together with CREA (Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria), GSE (Gestore dei Servizi Energetici S.p.A.), ENEA (Agenzia Nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l'energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile) and RSE (Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico S.p.A.) drafted a document aiming at clarifing the minimum features and requirements in order to qualify a plant as agrivoltaic ("Guidelines"). 

On 27 June 2022, the Ministry of Ecological Transition – Energy Departement (hereinafter the "MITE") together with CREA (Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria), GSE (Gestore dei Servizi Energetici S.p.A.), ENEA (Agenzia Nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l'energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile) and RSE (Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico S.p.A.) drafted a document aiming at clarifying the minimum features and requirements in order to qualify a plant as agrivoltaic ("Guidelines"). 

Pursuant to the Guidelines, a photovoltaic power plant is defined as agrivoltaic plant when solutions aiming at safeguarding the continuity of the agricultural cultivation and pastoral activities on the area where the plant is located are adopted within the development of the same plant. 

The Guidelines also specifies that an agrivoltaic plant is defined as "advanced agrivoltaic plant" in case: (i) adopts innovative solutions with module elevate from the ground, aiming at granting the continuity of the cultivation and pastoral activities; and (ii) provides the realization of monitoring system aiming at verifying the impact of the power plant on the cultivations, water saving, agricultural productivity for the different kind of cultivations, the continuity of the activities of the interested farms, the recovery of the soil fertility, microclimate and resilience to climate change. 

Pursuant to section 2.2 of the Guidelines, the agrivoltaic systems have to comply with the following requirements:

  • REQUIREMENT A: the agrivoltaic system shall be designed and implemented in order to adopt a spatial configuration and appropriate technological solutions allowing the integration of agricultural activity and the electrical production and enhancing the productive potential of both subsystems
  • REQUIREMENT B: the agrivoltaic system shall ensure the synergic production of electricity and agricultural products and shall not compromise the continuity of agricultural and pastoral activity
  • REQUIREMENT C: the agrivoltaic system adopts innovative integrated solutions with elevated modules from the ground, aiming at optimizing the performance of the agrivoltaic system in both energy and agricultural performance
  • REQUIREMENT D: the agrivoltaic system is equipped with a monitoring system aimed at verifying the impact on cultivations, water savings, agricultural productivity for different types of cultivations, and the continuity of the agricultural activities carried out by the relevant farms
  • REQUIREMENT E: the agrivoltaic system is equipped with a monitoring system that, in addition to meeting requirement D, allows to verify the recovery of soil fertility, microclimate and resilience to climate change

In particular, the compliance with:

  • requirements A, B is necessary to qualify a photovoltaic plant built in an agricultural area as "agrivoltaic";
  • requirements A, B, C, and D is necessary to (i) comply with the definition of "advanced agrivoltaic plant" and to (ii) make the plant  eligible for the incentives granted by the GSE, in accordance with the provisions of Article 65, paragraphs 1-quater and 1-quinquies, of Decree-Law No. 24 of January 2012, No. 1;
  • requirements A, B, C, D, and E are pre-conditions for access to PNRR incentives (1)

REQUIREMENT A

The first objective is to create the necessary conditions not to jeopardize the continuity of agricultural and pastoral activities, while ensuring, at the same time, a synergistic and efficient energy production. This result is to be understood as achieved at the simultaneous occurrence of a number of constructional and spatial conditions.

A.1) a minimum area dedicated to cultivation (i.e. at least 70% of the surface area should be used for agricultural activity, in compliance with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Sagric ≥ 0,7 ∙ Stot

A.2) a percentage of total area covered by the modules (LAOR) of 40%

LAOR ≤ 40%

REQUIREMENT B

During the technical life of the plant, the conditions of integration between agricultural activities and electricity production must be respected enhancing the productive potential of both subsystems. In paticular should be verified:

B.1) the continuity of agricultural and pastoral activity on the land subject to the intervention (in terms of yield):

  • the effects of the concurrent energy and agricultural activity can be assessed by comparing the value of agricultural production planned on the area dedicated to the agrivoltaic system in the years following its implementation and the average value of agricultural production recorded on the same area in the previous years, with the same production address* (value expressed in €/ha or €/UBA (Adult Livestock Units). In order to verify the production on the land underlying the plant, the installation must be equipped with a system for monitoring agricultural activity.
  • Where a cultivation at farm level already exists, the maintenance of the production address or, eventually, the transition to a new production solution of higher economic value should be respected (always ensuring the maintenance of DOP or IGP products); For example, a possible reconversion of agricultural activity from an intensive direction to a much more extensive one, or the abandonment of activities characterised by DOP or DOCG marks, do not fulfil the criteria of maintaining the production address.

B.2) the electrical producibility of the agrivoltaic plant, compared to a standard plant and the maintenance in efficiency:

  • the electrical producibility of an agrivoltaic plant (FVagri in GWh/ha/year) compared to the electrical producibility of a standard PV plant (FVstandardin GWh/ha/year), should not be less than 60% of the latter:

FVagri ≥ 0,6 ∙ FVstandard

REQUIREMENT C (1/2)

Agrivoltaic plants adopt integrative solutions with not ground-mounted modules. The following examples may be followed:

TYPE 1

The minimum height of the modules is designed to allow the continuity of agricultural (or livestock) activities even under the photovoltaic modules. A condition is configured in which there is a dual land use, and a maximum integration between the agrivoltaic system and the crop, and that is, the PV modules perform a function synergistic to the crop, which can be expressed in the performance of crop protection (from excessive sunlight, hail, etc.) accomplished by the PV modules. In this condition, the area occupied by the crops and that of the agrivoltaic system coincide, subject to the constructive elements of the system that rest on the ground and inhibit activity in circumscribed areas of the ground.

Energy Focus Agrivoltaic Plants Guidelines 1

TYPE 2

The height of the modules from the ground is not designed to allow agricultural activities to be carried out below the PV modules. A condition is configured in which there is a combined land use, with a degree of integration between the PV system and the crop lower than before (since the PV modules do not perform any synergistic function to the crop).

Energy Focus Agrivoltaic Plants Guidelines 2TYPE 3

PV modules are arranged in a vertical position. The minimum height of the modules from the ground does not significantly affect the cultivation possibilities (except for shading at certain times of the day), but it can affect the degree of connectedness of the area, namely the possible passage of animals, with implications for the use of the area for livestock-related activities. In contrast, the integration between the agrivoltaic system and the crop can be explicit in the protection of the crop accomplished by the photovoltaic modules operating as windbreak barriers.

Energy Focus Agrivoltaic Plants Guidelines 3

REQUIREMENT C (2/2)

Limited to configurations where agricultural activity is also carried out below the modules themselves, the following can be set as reference values to fall under Type 1 and Type 3:

  • 3 meters in the case of livestock activity (minimum height to allow the passage with continuity of heads of livestock);
  • 1 meters in the case of cultivation activity (minimum height to allow the use of machinery functional to the cultivation).

It can be concluded that:

  • Type 1 and Type 3 are identifiable as advanced agrivoltaic plants, according to REQUIREMENT C.
  • Type 2, on the other hand, does not involve any integration between energy and agricultural productions, but exclusively a combined use of the relevant portion of the involved area.

REQUIREMENT D

Typical parameter values related to the agrivoltaic system should be guaranteed throughout the technical life of the system. The monitoring activity is therefore useful both for the verification of fundamental parameters, such as the continuity of the farming on the area below the plants, as well as of parameters aimed at detecting effects on competing benefits. The outcomes of the monitoring activity, with specific reference to the measures to promote agrivoltaic plants innovations are key points for assessing the effects and effectiveness of the measures themselves. In this respect, pursuant to DL 77/2021,  for the purpose of receiving state incentives, an appropriate monitoring system must be installed in order to verify the performance of the agrivoltaic system with particular reference to the following operating conditions (REQUIREMENT D):

D.1) water saving

Agrivoltaic plants can be an important solution for optimising the use of water resources. Irrigation needs for agricultural activity can be achieved through self-supply their irrigation service or through the arrangement of both the systems mentioned above.

In order to monitor the use of water resources for irrigation purposes, it would also be necessary to know the ex ante situation  relative to neighbouring areas cultivated with the same crop, under normal growing conditions and in the same period, so as to be able to compare reference irrigation requirements with current ones and assess their optimisation and valorization;

D.2) continuity of agricultural activity

Impact on crops, agricultural productivity for different types of crops or livestock and the continuity of the activities of the farms concerned. This activity can be carried out by means of a technical report worn by an agronomist. It is necessary that the agronomist is not involved in the management and operation of the agrivoltaic plants, for impartiality purposes.

REQUIREMENT E

In addition to the above, in order to assess the effects of agrivoltaic implementations, the PNRR also provides for the monitoring of the following additional parameters (REQUIREMENT E):

E.1) Recovery of soil fertility: recovery of uncultivated land that could be returned to agricultural activity thanks to the increase of profitability guaranteed by agrivoltaic plants.

E.2) Microclimate: the presence of a fixed or partially moving technological plant decreases the surface area available for cultivation due to piling, intercepts light, rainfall and creates variations in air circulation. The combination of these elements can cause a variation in the local microclimate. For this purpose, the impacts of the system can be monitored on the basis of (i) temperature, (ii) relative humidity, (iii) radiation and air speed sensors placed below the PV modules and in the area immediately adjacent, not involved in the plant.

E.3) Resilience to climate change: electricity production from PV modules does not jeopardize the carrying out of services or      activities impacted by them in view of current or future climate change. During the design phase, the designer should produce a report   analysing the climatic risks while in the monitoring phase, the provider of any incentives will verify the implementation of any climate adaptation solutions.

References:

(1) It being understood that, pursuant to Article 12, paragraph 1 (f) of Legislative Decree No. 199 of 2021, as part of the implementation of the measure Mission 2, Component 2, Investment 1.1 "Development of the agrivoltaics" further criteria in terms of subjective or technical requirements, reward factors or priority criteria may be defined.

Authors: Claudia Laterza, Eleonora degli Abbati, Matilde Franzini, Francesca Leo, Guglielmo Fabbricatore

Further Reading