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The place where bees, crops and photovoltaic panels coexist

The “agrivoltaica” is a circular economy initiative which generates shared value with the community allowing it to recover land used in the construction of solar plants for agricultural use, which promotes the sustainable development of these local communities.

Solar power generation and agriculture are activities that apparently have little to do with each other. However, they have one point in common: land use. The installation of photovoltaic plants over large areas can compete in some cases with the development of local crops.

Optimising coexistence and collaboration between the agricultural and livestock sector and renewable plants is the objective of a pilot project promoted by the Enel group, of which Endesa is a part, in several countries, including Spain. It involves using the same land for the installation of solar panels and the cultivation of the soil, known as "agrivoltaic" land use, thus promoting the circular economy and the creation of shared value with the local community.

In Spain, we have started five pilot projects on the solar plants of Carmona (Seville), Totana (Murcia), Valdecaballeros and Augusto (Badajoz) and Andorra (Teruel). There have already been some “agrivoltaic” experiments initiated in our country by individual farmers, but Endesa's will be the first test by an energy group within large-scale farms.

Sharing and not competing for land use with the primary sector is the best mechanism to achieve the long-term sustainability of our solar plants,” explains Inmaculada Fiteni, head of value creation programmes at Endesa's sustainability department. “In addition, it is a win-win formula, in which all the stakeholders involved are winners. In the first place, the farmer will have a perimeter within which the land is secure where they can cultivate at a competitive land price. As well as all the business related to this product that can be generated locally. And for the company, if the crop is well managed, cultivated land close to the panels entails lower maintenance costs by reducing suspended dust, lowering clearing costs, and possibly improving plant productivity by favouring a greater thermal difference between the soil and the panels”, Fiteni clarifies. 

"Sharing and not competing for land use with the primary sector is the best mechanism to achieve long-term sustainability for our solar plants".

– Inmaculada Fiteni, head of value creation programmes at Endesa's sustainability department

 

The Enel Group is developing another eight pilot projects in Greece and five in Italy. These initiatives support job creation in rural areas and reinforce sustainable agricultural practices. They offer the opportunity of achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal, namely decarbonisation, and at the same time, they comply with the new common agricultural policy, which seeks to develop a resilient model to ensure food for the EU in the current COVID scenario.

 

Beehives under solar panels

The Carmona solar plant project (100 MW and 200 hectares) combines agricultural use (3 hectares of aromatic plants: sage, rosemary, oregano and coriander) and beekeeping (50 or 60 hives) in the photovoltaic installation. Beekeeping allows the improvement of crop productivity by increasing the degree of pollination.

This pioneering project in Spain will have a series of hives located in the apiary, in a protected habitat for pollinating insects. In addition, the “Endesa Solar Apiary” in Carmona is an opportunity to promote local development due to the value that all the initiatives associated with the project can create:

  • A training space for young entrepreneurs in which workshops are given on beekeeping.
  • A space for innovation, in which two companies will collaborate, namely Smartbee and Protofy, which will work on hive sensorisation/monitoring, and 3D hive printing.
  • The promotion of api-tourism activities in collaboration with the city council that provide an additional tourist attraction.
  • The creation of a sustainable site, with surveillance and security, which is on herbicide and pollution-free land (habitat adapted for bees, currently a protected species).
  • The promotion of local socio-economic development, with an “Endesa space” where beekeepers will carry out their work, and where the aim is for between 5 and 10% of annual production to be acquired by local businesses and promoted by the city council.
  • Endesa honey with “storytelling”, produced by a local beekeeper that will include shared value, which can also be used to make artisanal pastry products typical of the area.

 

Benefits for the community

At Endesa, through our renewable subsidiary Enel Green Power España, we encourage all our renewable structures to be sustainable and to produce a direct benefit for local communities.

“Since 2016, we have been working on CSV projects (Creation of Sustainable Value) to integrate the local communities where we have our assets and projects, in order to jointly maximise the value that they can generate”, explains Inmaculada Fiteni. "This is a real value for the environment of our parks and a hallmark that marks us out from our competitors". 

“Since 2016 we have been working on CSV projects (Creation of Sustainable Value) to integrate the local communities where we have our assets and projects, in order to jointly maximise the value that they can generate".

– Inmaculada Fiteni

 

The CSV Plans accompany farms under construction with three main areas of action:

Sustainable engineering and construction measures, beyond what regulations require, with renewable construction projects with the highest sustainability requirements. Specifically:

  • The water tanks used are filled by tanker trucks from the local area, of an optimal size in order to reduce the number of trips required to a minimum. In addition, in areas with high rainfall, rainwater collection systems are implemented to reduce local consumption. Once the work is finished, these tanks and rainwater collection systems are donated to the municipalities involved in the construction of the renewable plant.
  • The photovoltaic panels used during the construction and the lighting of the construction cabins are donated to local communities in order to extend their useful life.
  • The material used during the work is mostly recycled. Furthermore, thanks to agreements with local companies, pallets and cardboard are re-used.  In the Carmona association for the disabled, for example, pallets and reels of wiring are being transforomed into tables and chairs and all kinds of utensils.
  • Sustainable mobility with the installation of recharging points on site for electric vehicles. When work finishes they will be put to public use in nearby municipalities or in the oversight buildings of the renewable plant itself.

Some of the measures incorporated are recognised by MITECO in the context of the Climate Programme for Sustainable Engineering.

Donation of construction material for the occupational workshop in Carmona, Seville.
Solar panel assembly course in Carmona, Seville.

Initiatives to promote employment and employability of the local population with training programmes as a way of retaining the rural population in sectors with potential in the area such as the renewables sector. With our renewables auction projects alone, we trained 361 people in panel assembly (prioritising the local unemployed and achieving a hiring ratio of 57%) and 166 people in the operation of renewable parks. We our continuing with the training programme on the farms currently under construction.

Measures to promote energy efficiency in municipalities. We try to close the circle, to make the municipalities where we are going to locate our renewable generation farmssustainable also in terms of their consumption.

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