The combination of agriculture and photovoltaic (PV) plants, known as agrivoltaic or agrophotovoltaic, is a strategy approach to create a benefit for local communities. Recent research has shown that solar energy production and agricultural activities can be compatible and even mutually beneficial, but so far large-scale applications have only been developed for hosting pollinator-friendly habitats.
Enel Green Power is committed to increasing the valorization of the areas occupied by PV power plants and is looking for new agricultural and zoological solutions and operating strategies that can allow their co-location and integration with large solar farms. Strategies must not interfere with the layout and operation of existing bifacial ground-mounted PV plants and must take into account:
- Multi-purpose land use (e.g. crops/flora and vegetation, grazing habitat for livestock);
- Wildlife habitat and biodiversity preservation;
- Local ecosystem valorization;
- Collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach.
Enel Green Power (EGP) is looking for innovative solutions aimed at integrating and co-locating agro-zoological activities within ground-mounted, utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) plants, not requiring layout modifications, while promoting a more efficient and sustainable land utilization.
The specific focus is the identification of solutions applicable in different climate and geographical areas, suitable for integration in existing solar plants based on ground-mounted bifacial PV panels, with a front and back active surface to convert solar energy into electricity.
Some examples, to be considered only as reference, may be:
- Crop growth, considering plant production tradeoffs from partial to total shade conditions;
- Pollinator-friendly habitat integration, evaluating the growth of multiple seed mixes underneath and among the solar panels and monitoring of mutual benefits for biodiversity;
- Zoological solutions, raising and grazing sheep, rabbits or other livestock on a land with photovoltaic plants;
- Water stress and microclimatic heterogeneity research in the interaction of the combined energy and crop production.
The main layout features of considered existing PV plants are:
- ground-mounted bifacial panels arranged in parallel lines; bi-facial solar panels are equipped with solar cells on both sides of the panel (front and rear), so as to produce more energy, taking advantage of direct sunlight as well as light reflected from the ground;
- horizontal tracker with tilt angle that can achieve +/- 60°; when the tracker is at its maximum tilt angle, the tracker achieves the minimum distance from the ground (20-70 cm);
An example of the layout is provided in Annex 1 – Panels Layout Example.
Submissions should address the following Solution Requirements:
The proposed solution must:
- Allow to maintain the main layout features of PV plants as stated above;
- Take into account ground reflectance, which is fundamental for the energy production of the PV plant;
- Allow access to the PV modules (to at least one person) for needed maintenance activities;
- Be based on sustainable principles, guaranteeing a circular approach for products produced, with no waste.
The proposed solution should describe possible uses of products/byproducts and of stakeholders/third parties that may benefit the development or the implementation of the solutions, creating a value chain.
Moreover, the proposed solution should target different climate areas and latitudes; the Seeker is interested in solutions implementable in the European Mediterranean Area, North and South America, between -30° and +45° of latitude.
Moreover, the proposed solution must not impact negatively the energy production of the plant; for example, it is necessary to avoid all the interventions that could:
- cover or shadow the modules (front and back parts);
- hinder the movement of the tracking structures;
- damage the modules or the structures;
- negatively influence the natural albedo.
The submitted proposal should at least include the following documentation:
- A detailed technical description and explanation;
- An analysis of the technical, environmental, social and economic aspects:
- quantitative and qualitative assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed overall process on the ecosystem;
- evaluation of impact also in terms of circular economy goals (i.e. expected quantity of crops produced),
- costs and benefits;
- Identification of potential risks or eventual constraints;
- Identification of possible uses of products/byproducts and of stakeholders/third parties that may benefit from the development or the implementation of the solutions, creating a value chain;
- Data, case studies, patent and journal references or any additional material that supports the proposed solutions.
The proposal should not include any personal identifying information (name, username, company, address, phone, email, personal website, resume, etc.) or any information the Solvers may consider as their Intellectual Property they do not want to share.