Floating Photovoltaic Systems Banned on Reservoirs in Italy

There's a ban in Italy on using "agricultural land" for installations such as photovoltaic systems that include reservoirs.
Fabienne Lang
Floating photovoltaic systemystsoi/Flickr

There's a fight that could go round and round in circles happening in Italy between solar energy installers and developers, and agricultural farmers. 

On the one hand, photovoltaic (PV) installers want to use reservoirs for their systems to generate power, and on the other hand, there's a ban on using any type of "agricultural land" for such installations — and reservoirs fall under this type of agricultural land in Italy. 


How are reservoirs deemed "agricultural land"?

There's a norm in Italy called the Fer 1 decree, which is creating a bit of a nightmare for PV installers to do what they do best: install photovoltaic systems in the country. 

One of the main points of the decree bans ground-based PV systems from being installed on agricultural land so as to access its incentives, bringing the rates higher than the regular market prices. 

The idea may be noble as this means more solar panels would be installed on roofs, landfills, and degraded land instead of usable fertile land. However, this makes it incredibly hard for Italy to reach its promised commitments to cleaner energy through renewable resources by 2030.

For a country that has a lot of sunshine, that's a real shame, and some might say even a waste. As lawyer Francesco Pezone pointed out (translated from Italian in QualEnergia) "Instead those who install solar systems on roofs or non-agricultural land, in order to participate in auctions, lacking the space, end up making them smaller and more expensive, and therefore ask for high remuneration, with the result that" Italy "must pay more than others for solar energy."

Some installers have been thinking outside the box to find loopholes in the system and have been pushing for floating PV systems to be placed on reservoirs. 

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"We wanted to build a large floating photovoltaic system, an all-Italian project, on a basin that collects rainwater for the irrigation of an innovative agricultural company," says Enrico Carniato, administrator of Upsolar Italia.

"It would have been the first large floating solar system in our country, a forerunner of a technique that is exploding all over the world, and which would allow Italy to create dozens of GW of photovoltaics on the thousands of its reservoirs, without consuming a square meter of land, and also reducing losses caused by evaporation. But we will not be able to do it."

The reason why they can't do it is because reservoirs fall under the category of agricultural areas, even though nothing can actually grown on or in them aside from water lilies and some algae. 

Some changes need to happen in Italy if they wish to keep up with the rest of the world's PV adoptions, and if they want to reach their 2030 clean energy goal. If they managed to do so, it would help the world to be powered purely by renewable energy by 2050.


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