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Serbia to launch largest agrivoltaic project in the Balkans

Image credit: Fintel Energija
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The concept of agrivoltaics, or combining the agricultural use of land with the production of electric energy by photovoltaics is starting to develop in the countries from the SEE region, with various projects at different stages of implementation.

“Agrosolar Kula” is one of those agrivoltaic projects, worth €340M and planned to be launched in Serbia next year. The agrivoltaic project is the first of its kind in the Balkans, and it will enable simultaneous production of agricultural crops and energy from sunlight in the same area.

The project will be implemented by the Italian renewable energy company Fintel Energia, together with its partner company MK Group in Serbia. The “Agrosolar Kula” will be built on the territory of the municipality of Kula, in the north of country, with its beginning initially planned for April 2022.

According to Fintel Energia, the innovative application of solar panels in combination with vegetation creates such a microclimate which raises the productivity of agricultural production, and on the other hand, the efficiency of energy production.

“The good side is also reduced carbon emissions and water consumption for irrigation. In doing so, MK Group opted for organic agriculture on the land where the project will be implemented, so that no pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers will be used.” the two companies said in a statement.

According to Fintel Energia’s CEO Tiziano Giovannetti, smart agriculture and green energy have been in the focus for a long time, and this project is based on their synergy.

„This system achieves the optimization of land use and its maximum utilization, with a positive impact on the environment. That is why this pioneering investment of Fintel Energija and MK Group is of great importance for the sustainable development of agriculture and production of energy from renewable sources. We expect it to generate strong added value for both sectors,” Giovannetti said.

The project will initially include 700 hectares of land in Kula, divided into seven zones for various organic crops, the production of which will be possible for as much as 11 months a year.

Solar panels will be installed on approximately one third of the total area in regular rows, with a mutual distance between the rows for performing the planned agricultural works.

The annual planned production of green energy of the project is about 832 gigawatt hours, which will meet the needs of about 200 thousand households in Serbia.

Around the world, the viability emerging agrivoltaic innovation has been implemented in various ways, from emu farms and sheep grazing in Australia, to pollinator-friendly sites in the United States.

In France, renewables company Total Quadron plans to open and R&D unit for agrivoltaics, along with a 500 megawatt agrivoltaic installation by 2025.

Elsewhere, Swiss solar tech startup Insolight is developing translucent solar modules that can improve crop yield by adjusting the amount of light that reaches the plants, and use the rest of the sunlight to generate electricity.

Based on the region, such solutions can provide farmers with the opportunity to cultivate new crops they may not have been able to grow previously, or continue to farm crops that have suffered from too much heat due to the effects from global warming.

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Bojan Stojkovski is a journalist based in Skopje, North Macedonia. He has been covering foreign affairs and technology in the Balkans region for over a decade.