Italian government opposes large-scale PV development in historic Tuscia region

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The Italian cabinet has decided to cancel authorizations awarded in 2019 by the Lazio regional government for the construction of two large-scale PV projects in the historic Tuscia area, in Viterbo province.

The Italian council of ministers said on Thursday that the two projects were to be built in the municipalities of Tuscania and Montalto di Castro. They were approved by the regional government in March and May 2019, respectively. However, the cabinet said it accepted the decision to scrap the approvals at the request of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The Tuscia area is known for having abundant grid-connection capacity, due to the presence of Italy’s only nuclear power plant, now decommissioned. It also hosts some of Italy’s largest PV plants, including an 84 MW solar facility, completed in 2010, and the country’s first grid-parity utility-scale solar projects – built by U.K.-based Octopus Investments in 2017.

According to a list compiled by Assotuscania, which opposes the developments on agricultural grounds, there was 1.36 GW of solar capacity in development or in the approval process by the end of August 2019. The two projects canceled by the Italian government are likely included on the list.

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The largest of the 22 listed projects under development is a 187 MW solar facility planned by E-Solar Srl near Tarquinia. The second-largest project is a 150 MW solar plant to be developed by DSC Srl  in Tuscania. The third- and fourth-largest arrays, with capacities of 113 MW and 112 MW, are to be built in the territory of Montalto di Castro, by developers Solar Italy 3 Srl and Solar Italy 4 Srl.

It is unclear if the new measure only reflects the government’s views on large-scale PV development in the Tuscia area, or if the decision has implications for the entire country. The stronger partner in Italy’s governing coalition, the Five Star Movement, has always been clear about prioritizing rooftop PV. This is reflected by its decision to expand the tax breaks it offers for building renovations and energy-requalification projects – potentially including storage-backed rooftop PV systems – to 110%.

With rooftop alone, however, it is unlikely that Italy will deploy 3 GW per year in the decade ahead, as targeted in its energy strategy.

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