The Environmental Finance Sustainable Investment Awards judges were impressed by NextEnergy Capital's (NEC) 'Land of the Sun' project' which they described as an "interesting initiative".
Starlight, a renewable asset development company within the NextEnergy group, announced its innovative agri-eco-voltaics project in September 2022.
Agri-eco-voltaics is the process of combining solar photovoltaic systems with modern, sustainable agriculture to generate positive environmental, social and economic development outcomes.
"It has the potential to tackle some of the world's fundamental future economic and social challenges, whilst maximising the efficiency of land use," said Aldo Beolchini, managing Partner and chief investment officer at the specialist solar sector investment manager.
The project is located in Giugliano in Campania, Italy on a site previously affected by intensive cultivation practices and neighbouring environmentally polluting activities, such as landfills and quarries.
It aims to achieve the following:
- Construct and operate an agrivoltaics plant: the clean energy produced by the solar plant is expected to avoid 83,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year.
- Collaborate with local farmers to restore the soil quality on site by selecting and sowing seeds that provide land restoration benefits and protect cultural and natural heritages.
- Exemplify the benefits of multifunctional land use; Agri-voltaics pilots report an increase in yields between 20% to 60% on the land used for photovoltaic systems and a reduction of water resources by up to 20%.
One judge praised the project for how "it considers multiple real-world impacts that should be improved".
The initiative is being delivered as a public-private collaboration in partnership with the largest farmers’ association in Italy: Coldiretti, an Italian environmental association, Legambiente and a local, socially-oriented consultancy firm, PSR & Innovazione Campania.