Italy bans solar on agricultural land

Rome: The Italian government has banned solar PV installations on agricultural land, in a move that the nation’s solar trade association said would cost Italy €60 billion (US$64.5 billion).

The government rules constitute a complete ban on ground-mounted solar PV projects on land classed as agricultural. The policy is intended to preserve Italy’s productive agricultural land and “put an end to the wild installation of ground-mounted photovoltaics,” according to agriculture minister Francesco Lollobrigida.

Lollobrigida reportedly added that the installation of solar on agricultural land has the potential to undermine the tax provisions in place in Italy for agricultural projects.

The government confirmed that projects already undergoing approvals will be protected from the new ban. The new laws are subject to approval from both Italian houses of parliament, which can amend the decision, but the decision has already drawn criticism from the Italian solar sector.

Italia Solare, the national trade body for the solar industry, called the decision “a serious mistake” and said that it would cost Italy approximately €60 billion (US$64.6 billion) in lost private investment and tax revenues.

It added that the government’s stated aim of around 50GW of solar PV deployed by 2030 would be achievable “without any significant damage to agriculture and the landscape,” and that around 50% of this target could be met with just 1% of currently unoccupied agricultural land.

“Agriculture and photovoltaics can coexist very well with crops between the rows of photovoltaic modules,” said the trade body.

Energy minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin said that the new legislation would not endanger Italy’s solar deployment targets.

In recent years, Italy’s solar market has been dominated by residential and rooftop solar installations due to the government’s Superbonus incentives. However, utility-scale and ground-mounted deployments are expected to increase as these incentives are rolled back; Cristiano Spillati, managing director of Italian solar developer Limes, told PV Tech Premium last month that he expects to see “almost three times the amount of utility-scale solar as in 2023” come online this year.