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Enhancing photovoltaic energy production: Enel selects its latest challenge winner

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At Enel, we know that global challenges need collaborative solutions. Fabrizio Bizzarri, Head of Solar Innovation at Enel Green Power, summarizes Enel’s philosophy when he says “moving towards a global carbon-neutral society requires all of us to take part in creating sustainable processes”.

Through the Open Innovability® challenges, Enel co-creates with entrepreneurs and experts to develop ground-breaking solutions with the power to transform the needs of the present into the opportunities of the future.

The latest challenge by our business line Enel Green Power focused on renewable technologies. This challenge sought new materials or techniques to enhance the albedo in photovoltaic (PV) solar plants with bifacial modules, with the goal of increasing power plant production for the same amount of land occupied.

 

More energy production = more sustainability and land optimization

The efficient design of utility-scale PV plants is a significant pillar of the transition to renewable energy sources. Such plants require large installation areas, which is why optimizing land use through technologies such as bifacial solar panels is imperative.

Bifacial PV modules convert sunlight to DC electricity on both the front and back of the modules. A bifacial PV plant generates more energy than any monofacial or conventional approach with a variable percentage that is also known as bifacial gain. The yield from a bifacial PV system is dependent on several parameters. The most notable and site-specific is ground reflectivity, or albedo (the ratio of the light received to that which is reflected). The natural albedo of the ground in solar plants hardly exceeds 25%. This is why enhancing the albedo is so important: the higher the albedo, the more solar radiation can be reflected and captured from the back of the PV modules.

But increasing the albedo is not easy. Operational and structural restrictions make it complicated to integrate new solutions into current maintenance systems. More importantly, innovations must align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) throughout their value chains, including their disposal and direct impacts on local flora and fauna.

As such, the winner of this challenge had to come up with a solution that was not only scalable, but also sustainable. Of the almost 100 proposals that were evaluated, one proposal was selected as a winner due to its high-impact value and circular approach.

 

And the winner is...

After an intensive analysis and evaluation process, an innovative proposal was chosen for its new use and installation of an existing material: woven and non-woven polypropylene geotextile sheets.

This solution offers a clear surface for reflecting sunlight without suffocating the ground and compromising its ability to drain water, while allowing insects and plants to live undisturbed underneath. Moreover, this type of material is easily recyclable and commercially available, reducing long-distance transportation and CO2 emissions.

Thanks to this solution, not only do we optimize our processes, but we also ensure that a circular approach is implemented throughout our business.

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Meeting the new energy needs

Enel’s Open Innovation network is committed to uncovering new ways of meeting the needs of the energy transition. Nicola Rossi, Head of Innovation at Enel Green Power, explains: “The world of power generation is rapidly changing, and Enel Green Power wants to lead this change through innovative approaches and technologies to create more sustainable energy production.”

Through our Open Innovability® challenges, we are always on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate with entrepreneurs and startups coming up with ideas at the intersection of innovation and sustainability. Solutions to challenges like safeguarding biodiversity or redesigning secondary substation systems are key to making the world greener.

Want to be part of this global movement? Discover our open challenges now!