An international research team has developed a new methodology to increase pollination levels in ground-mounted solar power plants. This involves developing new plant cover below and around the solar parks.

Of pv world magazine

An international research team has developed a new approach to improving land use in ground-mounted solar power plants, which they believe could be used to add important wildlife habitats or even agricultural activities to land already used by a conventional photovoltaic system.

“We initially developed our approach for existing solar power plants installed in the Puglia region in southern Italy, but it could be used in other regions or countries with different vegetation,” said Teodoro Semeraro, an environmental scientist at the Italian University of Salento who led the research. photo magazine“It could also be used for new projects involving agricultural use or rooftop installations combining green roofs with solar power generation, where the agricultural aspect would be less important.”

The approach would see new ground cover grown under and around solar installations, as potential habitat for pollinating insects or for agricultural activities, including beekeeping and the production of medicinal herbs. This approach would provide a series of additional benefits such as reduced maintenance costs for green spaces in solar parks, reduced fire risk, potential development of small-scale agricultural activities and positive media coverage, among others.

Local conditions

The scientists pointed out that the vegetation selected to be grown in solar parks should be able to adapt to environmental soil conditions, water scarcity and nutritional deficiencies. “Our approach can also take non-native species into account, but from a landscape and local biodiversity protection perspective, the use of native vegetation is desirable,” Semeraro said. “In addition, the local species are adapted to the climate and the chronic lack of water in Puglia, so they could react better. But, that said, the use of non-native species is technically feasible under conditions that meet the specific needs of the project.

According to research, beekeeping on these sites would not require invasive structures and the hives could be put on the ground during the flowering period. “Biodiversity and ecosystem services could persist over time even after the dismantling of ground-based photovoltaic systems and continue to support people’s well-being both locally and on a larger scale, ensuring sustainability” , they further explained, noting that beekeeping can help overcome the problem of monoculture. , typical of the Puglia region.

holistic approach

The research listed a range of ecosystem services that solar parks could provide without additional human input, based on the intrinsic value of vegetation in maintaining ecosystem services. This would transform the solar parks into semi-natural areas, or agro-ecological photovoltaic gardens, which would host honey species flowering at different times to be harvested and marketed as medicinal herbs. In addition, solar panels can reduce water stress in vegetation, while improving soil quality through their shading function.

Asked what exactly defines agrivoltaics and differentiates it from conventional ground-mounted solar installations, Semeraro said the crucial element is the presence of an agricultural company in a project. “We cannot talk about agrivoltaic if an actor in the agricultural field is not involved in the project or if there is no agricultural exploitation interested in the cultivation or use of the soil, “he said. -he declares. “There is a risk that a plant will be created without someone growing it.”

The scientists presented their approach in the study “An innovative approach to combine solar photovoltaic gardens with agricultural production and ecosystem services,” Posted in ecosystem service.

The group includes scientists from the University of Salento and the CNR Food Production Unit Science Institute in Lecce, Italy, as well as Glasgow Caledonian University in the UK.

“A transdisciplinary approach is important for sharing knowledge between different stakeholders and filling the information gaps typical of a sectoral perspective, creating a holistic view of the professional skills and experiences involved,” the document states. “Its proper implementation requires the joint effort of all economic actors as well as technical and scientific experts to promote multifunctional land use in ground-mounted solar farms.”

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