Fact: To reach the European Green Deal targets, Italy will need to install around 60GW of new renewable energy systems by 2030, of which 43GW will be PV.
In addition to installations on buildings, there are also ground-mounted installations on agricultural land. The latter are viewed with distrust, in particular by Coldiretti Giovani Impresa:
- who asserts “by allocating agricultural land to photovoltaics there will be no more land to cultivate and we will accelerate the loss of biodiversity unique to our country”.
But is this true? On the contrary, a recent German study, Studie_Solarparks_Gewinne_fuer_die_Biodiversitaet, argues that photovoltaic parks are overall a ‘win-win’ for biodiversity, as they would not only protect the climate – through renewable electricity generation – but also improve land conservation.
Ground-mounted solar installations form a favourable, somewhat ‘protected’ environment for the colonisation of various species that would find it difficult to survive on land characterised by monocultures, on over-exploited land, or on abandoned and uncultivated land. Another positive note: the shading caused by rows of photovoltaic modules influences air temperature, precipitation and evaporation and has a knock-on effect on soil, vegetation and biodiversity. Not to mention the positive impact they have on the presence of pollinating insects, which, as we know, are of vital importance and must be carefully protected.
- raising concerns about “defending national food production capacity”.
Are we really at risk of occupying agricultural land necessary for the country’s food supply? The 2016 Istat data on Italy speaks of 12.6 million hectares of utilised agricultural area and 16.5 million hectares of total agricultural area. How much space would be needed to reach the 2030 targets? If we were to install all 43GW on land, just hypothetically, just 0.25% of Italy’s total agricultural area or 8.5% of the unused area would be sufficient.
Meanwhile, more and more projects are aiming to combine photovoltaics and agriculture, with mutual benefits in terms of energy production, environmental protection, preservation of biodiversity and soil conservation here.
It is therefore necessary to promote the construction of ground-mounted photovoltaic systems, without taking away space from used agricultural land, either through innovative solutions such as agri-voltaics, capable of integrating energy production with agricultural and livestock production, or through photovoltaic fields on abandoned, degraded or marginal areas.