Ever heard of algovoltaics? Enel is testing it for applications on large solar plants


Italian renewable energy company Enel Green Power, a unit of national utility Enel, is partnering with Italian research agency ENEA in the development of what it described as an innovative technology that combines photovoltaic electricity production with microalgae cultivation.

“The PV plant will be a ground-mounted PV facility, which is the conventional layout for utility-scale systems, and the integration with the microalgae plant is designed so as to not change the layout of the PV plant,” Nicola Rossi, head of innovation at Enel Green Power, told pv magazine. “Microalgae cultivation will be carried out in a dedicated system.”  

The integration scheme is aimed at minimizing interferences with the PV plant and maximizing the benefits in microalgae yield. “Currently, we do not expect variations in PV plant layout and related support structures, in line with our agrivoltaic approach, which aims to adapt agriculture to the existing PV layout in order avoid increasing electricity generation costs,” he explained.

The pilot project is being deployed at the Enea-Portici experimental area, near Naples, as the aim of the test is to evaluate the interferences between solar energy generation and microalgae yield. “The PV size will be about 7 kW, and tests will be carried out with mono and bifacial panels,” Rossi specified.

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As for the kind of algae that will be cultivated at the facility, he added that these will be high-value products, such as Acutodesmus obliquus and Nannochloropsis gaditana, both of which have a commercial value of around €150/kg or Haematococcus pluvialis, whose commercial value may reach up to €205/kg.

“With this agreement we are launching a new possible synergy for the shared use of the land that we have identified with our ‘algovoltaic' brand and this is an ideal opportunity for the agrivoltaic sector, in which we are investing significant resources to implement the guidelines in Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan,” said Ezio Terzini, head of the Photovoltaic and Smart Devices Division at ENEA's Renewable Energy Technologies Department.

A scalability analysis will be carried out for applications on large photovoltaic plants, Enel Green Power said in a statement released last week.

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