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Debunking myths: are solar parks and wind farms grabbing land from farming?

5 min.

Debunking myths: are solar parks and wind farms grabbing land from farming?

Solar and wind power plants are reducing the amount of farmed land: a myth that begs to be debunked.

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The development process of renewables tackles and overcomes many hurdles, especially regulatory ones as bureaucracy is hardly known for streamlining works, while several false myths are at risk of spiraling unchecked into harmful fake news.

The time has come to clear the air around some misguided beliefs connected to the development of new renewable power plants in order to tackle and debunk them, starting from a rather common concern: are solar and wind power plants “stealing” land from farming?

 

Reduced land use, excellent yields: it’s the Italian experience

Italy is a country where the agrarian economy still plays an important role, as it ranks among Europe’s foremost producers of farming goods and services. At the same time, by 2030 Italy must transform its energy generation matrix by increasing the share of renewables: about 20 GW[1] of new solar capacity and roughly 8 GW of wind capacity are in the pipeline.

Will these new solar and wind power plants hamper Italy’s farming development through substantial land grabs? Absolutely not. By looking at targets set by the Integrated Energy and Climate National Plan, by 2030 the projected land surface from Italy’s entire solar capacity will be no larger than the Province of Monza-Brianza, while the entire wind capacity would cover a land mass no larger than the province of Prato - simply put, two of Italy’s smallest Provinces. This fact emphatically debunks the false myth of excessive land use from solar parks and wind farms.

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Renewables and farming can coexist

A new way for renewable power plants and farming to coexist in an ever more sustainable way is delivered by Agrivoltaics, an innovative method seeing Enel Green Power partner with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The InSPIRE project (Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment) is currently probing whether PV solar arrays and crops can be mutually beneficial: field testing is focused on the way shade from solar panels can lead to a more efficient water usage while protecting crops from the sun’s rays during the warmer hours. The first results of Agrivoltaics were surprising: a cherry tomato plantation in Arizona lowered its water consumption while doubling its yield.

The design of many ground-based PV solar arrays is based on operational models that greatly reduce land usage. A sustained R&D effort delivered such technological advancements like the HJT bi-facial PV solar panel, a world exclusive from Enel Green Power, manufactured in its 3SUN factory located in Catania, Italy. Such technology is engineered to capture solar radiation from both sides of the panel, thus improving its efficiency while optimizing the landmass occupied by a power plant.

Excessive land usage, together with the potential conflict between renenwable power plants and crops have both been debunked. This new generation of renewable power plants will stimulate the energy transition process and more: farming will become an integral part of the “green revolution” thanks to innovative solutions that will enhance the value creation process.

[1] Reserved to large scale projects only. About 10 GW-worth of small-sized facilities should be added to this development.

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