Enel Green Power (EGP) has started construction of a 170MW solar farm in Viterbo, in central Italy, that is set to become the country’s largest-ever agrivoltaic plant.

The PV project, which will be “fully integrated” to host crops in the province of Tarquinia, is expected to generate around 280GWh a year on average once in operation, abating 130,000 tons of CO2 as well as saving 26 million m3 of gas a year.

EGP CEO Salvatore Bernabei said: “The solar plant we are building shows that an increase in the use of renewable energy can be harmoniously combined with agricultural activities.

“In fact, this plant will seamlessly integrate with the local area and will host crops, resulting in a positive impact on the environment, the economy and the local area, as well as helping to reduce Italy’s energy dependency.”

The company calculates that with the PV project, fossil fuels will be “fully replaced by locally produced renewable energy” in the province, with supply to roughly 111,000 households.

“The value of the project lies not only in the production capacity from renewable sources, but also in its innovation and local approach,” said Bernabei.

The Viterbo plant will us bifacial PV modules – which are able to absorb solar energy on both front and rear surfaces – and will be mounted on trackers that tilt the panel toward the sun as moves through the sky to maximise production.

EGP said it would be working with local agricultural producers to grow fodder and borage in vacant areas between the rows of PV panels and in the “buffer zones” under overhead power lines, while olive trees will be planted around the perimeter of the farm.

“The construction of this new plant reaffirms Enel Green Power’s commitment to the energy transition in the North of Latium, as well as its primary focus on ensuring it has a positive impact on the local economy and communities,” said EGP.

“As part of a broader commitment by the Enel Group to promote a new type of sustainable development in the local area in order to support the energy transition, the solar plant in Tarquinia fits into a strategy that prioritises upgrading existing facilities and building new renewable energy plants.”

The agrivoltaic sector has not yet lived up to its promise , with German federal grids agency BNetzA's maiden sector-specific tender, a 400MW auction in 2021, seeing only 21MW of proposed hybrid solar installations awarded.