Energy: ENEA launches national network for sustainable agrivoltaic systems


An Italian network open to companies, institutions, universities and trade associations to promote sustainable agrivoltaic systems, which combine the agricultural use of land with production of electric energy by photovoltaics.

It’s an ENEA coordinated initiative, supported by Italian Association of Landscape Architecture (AIAPP), Confagricoltura, Council of the National Order of Agronomists and Forestry Doctors (CONAF), FREE Coordination (Coordination of Renewable Sources and Energy Efficiency), Italiasolare, Legambiente, REM Tec, Italian Society of Agronomy (SIA) and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Piacenza.

The goal of the network is to develop a methodological and regulatory framework, guidelines for the design and evaluation of plants, tools to support decision makers,  contribute to the dissemination of knowledge and promote Italian excellence in the sectors of new technologies for renewable energy, agriculture and landscape[1].

At the operational level, ENEA has set up a specific multidisciplinary task force involving two departments - "Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources" and "Sustainability of Productive and Territorial Systems" – equipped with laboratories, infrastructures and long-standing skills in the sectors of green technologies and agro-industry.

The initiative is part of the broader "Green revolution and ecological transition" mission of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which envisages 1.1 billion euro funds and a production capacity of 2.43 GW for the development of the agricultural sector, leading to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions (approximately 1.5 million tons of CO2) and energy supply costs.

Furthermore, the development of agrivoltaics could help overcome some of the critical issues which are holding back the growth of photovoltaics. "The specificity of Italian urban contexts and the limited potential for integrating photovoltaics into buildings, as well as the uncertainties linked to the change in land use and the transformation of the landscape, hinder the authorization process", Ezio Terzini, Head of the ENEA Division Photovoltaic and Smart Devices, pointed out. “Agrivoltaic systems can therefore represent a sound solution, and innovative technological systems and criteria for designing and evaluating the performance of plants are needed to encourage their diffusion ”, he continued.

According to an ENEA-Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore study, published in the scientific journal Applied Energy, the economic[2], and environmental [3] performances of agrivoltaic systems are similar to those of ground photovoltaic plants, especially if tensile structures to limit the use of steel and cement are used: the cost of the power generated is approximately 9 euro cents per kWh, while greenhouse gas emissions amount to around 20 g of CO2eq per megajoule of electricity.

"But the added values are significant, as some types of agricultural installations (e.g.  5-m-high panels, use of tensile structures) have a relatively limited impact on soil consumption compared to ground systems and, in specific environmental conditions ( e.g. water stress), can achieve an increase in agricultural yeld thanks to the shadow cast on the ground by the agrivoltaic plants which, if well managed, reduces soil temperature and crop water needs. In specific contexts, agrovoltaics can contribute to building resilience of the agri-food sector to respond to the impacts of climate change and contribute towards achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda", explained Alessandro Agostini, ENEA researcher at the Production, Storage and Energy Use Division, one of the authors of the study.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2020 of the International Energy Agency (IEA), photovoltaics is currently the cheapest source of electricity and therefore its diffusion is crucial to the achievement of the European energy objectives and the National Energy and Climate Plan -which aims to ensure a growth of renewable energy generation from about 24 TWh / year to 73 TWh / year- and the further increase envisaged by the “Next Generation Italia” Plan.

"The agri-food system needs to address the issues of decarbonization, sustainability and competitiveness and agrivoltaics can be an opportunity for farmers, through win-win models that enhance the synergies between agricultural production and energy generation", Massimo Iannetta, Head of the ENEA Division of Biotechnology and Agroindustry, pointed out. "Furthermore, the sector can contribute to strengthening agricultural production through the Nexus approach, which takes into account the close interdependence among food, energy and water production, to include another crucial factor, soil, with its physical, chemical and biological characteristics to  protect ”, he said.

"Agrivoltaics has unique characteristics, capable of combining energy, new technologies, agriculture and landscape conservation, also to protect local communities and their activities, with a positive impact on the environmental, economic and social sustainability", pointed out Alessandra Scognamiglio, researcher at the ENEA Innovative Devices Laboratory in the Portici Research Center and coordinator of the task force AgrivoltaicoSostenibile @ ENEA.

"We believe that there isn’t just one agrivoltaic system, but several solutions to be developed according to the specific characteristics of the areas where  interventions are implemented: the challenge is to turn a technical matter into a complex cultural matter, adopting a transdisciplinary approach supported by the outcomes of research on the best crops / photovoltaic combinations ”, she said.

An evaluation from multiple perspectives of potential impacts is necessary, including ecosystem services associated with agricultural systems integrated with energy production and the environmental and landscape impacts associated with the entire life cycle of the infrastructures associated with these plants.

The role of scientific research in supporting political decisions on these issues is fundamental, with respect to the economic development associated with the renewable energy industry. "The risk is that a decontextualized diffusion of these plants would lead to a change in the use of agricultural land, since the production of energy today allows for much higher incomes than crops, as ecosystems services are not accounted for in the economic evaluation, including quality of the landscape and soil, from which society benefits without producers being remunerated”, Michele Perniola, president of the Italian Agronomy Society, said.

After the presentation as part of the 29th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition (EUBCE), in collaboration with ETA-Florence Renewable Energies, the national network of sustainable agrivoltaics made its debut in Europe on 11 May from 11:35 to 12 : 20 during the SolarPower Summit 2021, the annual SolarPower Europe event, with over 2000 participants including representatives of institutions, associations, companies and policy makers of the European energy sector, scheduled to take place from 10 to 12 May 2021.

A place to exchange knowledge and experiences on the various national initiatives, the network is web platform in which stakeholders can participate in different ways which include involvement in the scientific or advisory committee, development of demonstrators and exchange of information on real case studies or new scientific outcomes.


For more information please contact:

Alessandra Scognamiglio, ENEA - Innovative Devices Laboratory, Portici Research Center,

Platform website:

Link to the ENEA - Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore study:


Video “Che cos’è l’agrivoltaico sostenibile? Alessandra Scognamiglio ENEA

Additional free stock videos are available on demand

Link to the Solar Power Summit 2021 :

[1]The European Landscape Convention defines “Landscape” as a certain part of the land, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural  and/or human factors

[2] Measured as Levelized Cost of Electricity, LCoE.

[3] Measured with life cycle assessment method, LCA

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