From Photovoltaics to Agrivoltaics, a Network for the Development of Renewable Energy

MUSA and Urban Regeneration: Follow-up on the First Conference of the Italian Photovoltaic Network

The creation of a national network to contribute to the development of renewable energy and create the conditions for Europe to lead globally in technological innovation in the solar energy sector. This is the project taking shape after the first 2023 Conference of the Italian Photovoltaic Network, presented on June 23rd at the University of Milano-Bicocca as part of MUSA’s urban regeneration projects. The conference had 130 participants from all Italian research centers and universities conducting research in the field of photovoltaics, as well as representatives from companies such as Enel Green Power, Futurasun, and spin-offs.

The conference of the Italian Photovoltaic Network for research, development, and innovation (IFV Network) is an event aimed at the photovoltaic community in Italy, involving key players in Italian research and businesses in the sector. The topics under discussion include research in photovoltaics, new technologies, ongoing research activities, and applications in highly integrated utility-scale contexts, such as Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics (BIPV) and agrivoltaics.

Founded in 2017 to create a national supply chain and collaborate in the sector, the network brings together research centers, universities, and industry. Today, several representative entities are already part of this initiative, looking ahead and aiming to address real and concrete needs, such as companies’ requirements for R&D and technological innovation activities with references to turn to. Faced with increasingly ambitious goals regarding the energy transition, the founders’ question was to understand what role the Italian photovoltaic sector could play in distributed generation and its integration into buildings and the energy system.

The network now includes around thirty entities, including the National Research Council, Eurac Research, Enea, Rse, Enel Green Power, University of Milano-Bicocca, University of Turin, and “Tor Vergata” University of Rome. All these actors also published a white paper in 2021 for the revival of photovoltaic research, development, innovation, and industry in Italy. The white paper outlines the national strategy, which should be updated following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine.

The network will also carry out activities dedicated to the development of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), which are all photovoltaic systems and materials used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope, such as roofs, skylights, or facades, as well as shading systems. In this area, two paths can be followed. One concerns mass customization, aiming to reduce costs and create products that meet all the requirements of designers and integrators.

For example, the MC 2.0 project involves Italian actors Eurac Research, Applied Materials Italia, Glass to Power, and Focchi. These connections have also arisen thanks to the Italian Photovoltaic Network. In the other path, defined as mass adaptation, entities capable of creating customized systems can operate. In this case as well, depending on costs and solutions, there are Italian companies focusing on offering dedicated solutions. Both Enel Green Power and Futura Sun have in their roadmap the goal of creating tandem modules with perovskites.