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May 12th, 2023

Finding the Best Solar Sites in Italy

Fredrik Moger - CEO & Co-founder

🇮🇹 Italy is one of the most outstanding countries in Europe and worldwide when it comes to renewable energy production. After hydroelectric power, solar energy is the star performer of Green Energy sources. Photovoltaic energy, in particular, accounts for a fifth of all the Green Energy produced and meets close to 10% of Italy’s total energy requirements (data based on 2022 figures).

As committed under its old National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), Italy targeted to achieve 51 GW cumulative PV capacity by 2030 which means it would have had to double 2022 capacity in 8 years’ time. However, the country’s new updated target of 71.2 GW by 2030 requires it to nearly triple last year’s annual numbers.

The bottleneck to reaching the new ambitious target is identifying suitable land. In this blog post, I will show how Enernite can enable you to increase your early-stage pipeline while ensuring you spend time on the sites that matter.

1. Create a Project

To start, simply click New Project. After that, invite your team members to start collaborating in Enernite. Once invited, they can log in and both view and edit the datasets in real time. You can also invite members from external organizations that will only be able to view and edit Project Data.

Create Project

2. Query Data of Substations

In addition to making public data easy to access, Enernite also provides Premium Data, such as the degree of saturation of each HV/MV section of Enel Distribution Primary Substations and critical municipalities for the connection of new production plants.

In this case, we are especially interested in the Bologna province in the Emilia-Romagna region and the first thing we would do is query substation data with the saturation degree for the Bologna province.

Query data of substations

The data will appear in your Workspace Data, as this data will be accessible to your entire organization. Saturation is given by four different colors as seen on the map:

  • 🟢 Green: HV/MV sections for when the reversal of the energy flow is not evident;
  • 🟡 Yellow: HV/MV sections for when the warning limit is low;
  • 🟠 Orange: HV/MV sections for when the warning limit is high;
  • 🔴 Red: HV/MV sections saturated.

The data is updated on a monthly basis.

In our case, both green and yellow HV/MV sections are interesting to research further. You can click on an object in the map to gain more information regarding a specific substation. You can expand the pop-up by clicking on the table symbol in the right corner of the pop-up.

3. Query Solar Belt and Critical Municipalities Data

With the rule of Solar Belt, the areas, including agricultural areas, adjacent within 300 meters to highways and within 500 meters of industrial areas, are immediately declared suitable for the installation of photovoltaic systems, as long as there are no cultural, environmental, or commercial constraints.

By using a combination of web scraping and GIS techniques, Enernite provides the geospatial location of the Solar Belt, as Premium Data. Similarly to substation data, we will query the Solar Belt Data for the Bologna province in the Emilia-Romagna region. Additionally, we would like to keep a distance from Critical Municipalities, where the poor rating of the infrastructure constrains us from building new power generation within the municipalities. Check our latest blog post about our Italian Solar Belt Map.

The Critical Municipalities are shown in black, the Solar Belt Highways in turquoise, and the Solar Belt Industrial Areas in purple.

Query data of solar belt

4. Add Environmental Constraints

When entering the map view, navigate to the Data Hub by simply clicking the + symbol next to Project Data, then selecting the Data Hub, and finally filtering on 🇮🇹 Italy, as shown in the screenshots below.

Add environmental constraints

Add environmental constraints

Add environmental constraints

From here it is possible to select various datasets. In this case, the following Italian datasets will be used:

  • 🖼️ Landscape Constraints

    • SITAP
  • 🗿 Cultural Heritage

    • UNESCO
    • Vincoli in Rete (Beni Culturali)
  • 🛡️ Protected Areas

    • Ramsar
    • Rete Natura 2000 (SIC/ZCS and ZPS)
    • Important Bird Areas (IBA)
  • 🌊 Hydrology

    • PAI - High Risk
    • PAI - High Danger
  • 🪨 Geological

    • ISPRA - Geosites

In the map view, we now use both the information regarding constraints and available substation capacity to rapidly prioritize areas within the Bologna province.

Add environmental constraints

4. Query Cadastral Parcel Data

After identifying two suitable connection points, we query another Premium Data Layer provided by Enernite; Vectorized Cadastral Parcels, which can be provided on different scales, depending on the users' requests. For this project, we request the data on a 6 km buffer radius from the two relevant substations.

Similar to the data mentioned above, the Vectorized Cadastral Parcels dataset will also appear within Workspace Data.

Query cadastral data

In general, we are only interested in the larger parcels, or clusters of larger parcels. To easily identify the relevant parcels, we open the attribute table and filter on parcels larger than 5 hectares.

How to filter: From the Data Table, it’s possible to filter based on the area by using the + add filter button located in the top-right corner of the Data Table.

Filter data table

From here, we start searching for the parcels that intersect with the solar belt and are free of constraints. After just a few minutes of looking around, we find two parcels that are looking promising just 1.2 km from the substation.

Measure distance

We now select the parcels and simply copy them as an individual layer by right-clicking on the layer.

Copy project layers

5. Suitable Area and Production Estimation Analysis

To gain a more thorough understanding of the potential, let’s proceed with Buildable Area Analysis and Solar PV - Energy Production by navigating to the analysis tab on the left panel. After reviewing potential area constraints by looking at proximity or intersection with infrastructure and buildings, we identified a railway, some roads, and a couple of buildings we need to take into account.

Buildable area

For the Buildable Area Analysis, we select a 30-meter buffer for buildings, railways, and roads, a 50-meter buffer for the transmission line, and a 25-meter buffer for the unidentified poles.

Buildable area

After excluding the selected areas we see that most of the site is not buildable due to area constraints. There are potential workarounds to increase the buildable area, by for instance re-routing the transmission line and the unidentified poles. We will continue assuming this is possible and using the remaining buildable area for the Solar PV - Energy Production analysis. For the analysis, we use fixed mounting, crystalline silicon, 11% system loss, and 1 MWp/ha, and optimize it for surface and slope.

Solar PV production estimation

After clicking Run, a pop-up with results will show after a few seconds. From the results, we can see the total MWp potential, spectral losses, and estimated yearly production.

Solar PV production estimation

7. Share Results with Colleagues

To keep my colleagues updated, I added a column named Stage and MWp inside the Data Table.

Share results

In order to make it easy for my colleagues to access the relevant data for further technical work, I click the ⚙️ symbol next to the Project Name in the top right corner of the left panel. This allows me to choose the Map Origin making it easy for other users to go directly to this view when they open the project.

The Map Origin will also be set as the thumbnail for the project on the Project Overview page.

Map origin

Lastly, I would like to export a Buildable Area Map to share with several stakeholders such as the landowner, the bank, and the insurance company. By navigating to the Export Button on the left panel, I can add a name, description, and edit legends before exporting the map to PNG or PDF.

Export map buildable area

I also drop a note in the comment section that the buildable area presupposes that we are able to reroute both the transmission line and the unidentified poles.

Comments section

Sign-up for the Waitlist to Gain Access

We are currently prioritizing Italian customers and encourage you to sign-up. The expected onboarding time from sign-up is currently three weeks.

So, request access to our beta and find the best solar sites today!

Or schedule a demo here: Schedule

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