In order to be defined as agri-voltaic and receive support from the NRP, photovoltaics must ensure the fruitful coexistence of agriculture and energy production.

The agricultural and agri-food sector in Italy can give a strong push towards decarbonisation and there is, at this time, strong interest in agri-voltaics.

What is agri-voltaics?

It refers to photovoltaic systems made by a farm to meet its electricity needs, installed on the roofs of buildings (without land consumption) or on the ground, but under special conditions. PNRR includes a substantial budget precisely to incentivise the installation of panels on farms, which is already being implemented with an initial initiative for rooftop photovoltaics. This is an important contribution to lowering the energy supply costs of businesses and simultaneously lightening their environmental footprint.

What is the incidence of energy costs for agricultural enterprises?

According to FADN estimates, energy supply costs borne by farms account for more than 20% of variable costs, with higher percentages for some production sectors. Investments dedicated to energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy for self-consumption produce a cost reduction that can increase agricultural profitability.
Photovoltaic systems become key players in this scenario:
– they can support farms with self-production of electricity
– it is possible to collect rainwater using the surface of the modules, conveying the collected water with consequent energy savings for irrigation purposes.

What do systems have to look like to be called agri-voltaic?

The concept of ‘agri-voltaics’, described in the recent Guidelines published by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, defines installations ‘aimed at preserving the continuity of agricultural and pastoral cultivation activities on the installation site’. These are non-ground installations. The Agrisolar Park call for rooftop photovoltaics in agriculture. The first initiative within the PNRR concerning photovoltaics in agriculture, with installation on the roofs of buildings, is already underway.

An amount of EUR 1.5 billion allocated by the Agrisolare decree (Mipaaf decree of 25 March 2022) within the Component ‘Circular Economy and Sustainable Agriculture, Green Revolution and Ecological Transition Mission (Mission 2, Component 1, Investment 2.2)’ of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan will soon be made available.

The decree was published last 28 June in Official Gazette No. 149 and, in the meantime, Italy has also received the relative green light from Europe on State aid; it is only necessary to wait for the actual opening of the call for applications. From the moment the grant is awarded, the beneficiaries will then have 18 months to implement the projects.

The Agrisolar Decree

As a reminder, the Agrisolare decree for photovoltaics in agriculture is intended for agricultural and agro-industrial businesses and agricultural cooperatives and is used to purchase and install photovoltaic panels on the roofs of buildings for a power of between 6 kWp and 500 kWp, with a maximum eligible expenditure per individual project of 750,000 euros. For farms in the primary sector, photovoltaic systems only qualify for contributions if their objective is to meet the farm’s energy needs and if their production capacity does not exceed the farm’s average annual electricity consumption, including family consumption.

PNRR also envisages an additional EUR 1.1 billion to incentivise the construction of agri-voltaic plants on land with non-repayable subsidies and feed-in tariffs. The draft decree is still being finalised, but the call for tenders is expected by December 2022.