The Emilia-Romagna region provides the first Guidelines for new solar power plants in quarries and closed landfills

Prepared by Energy Team

Through Resolution no. 1458/2021, the Emilia-Romagna Regional Council approved the “Guidelines for the implementation of the Legislative Assembly Resolution (“DAL”) dated 6 December 2010, no. 28, to promote the construction of photovoltaic plants on dismissed quarry sites” (“Regional Guidelines”), which provide guidelines to promote the development of renewables plants in dismissed quarry sites, also defining, whilst awaiting possible state coordination, the requirements for so-called “floating” and “agrivoltaic” plants.

This regional legislation became necessary due to the amendment made by Law Decree no. 77/2021 (“Simplification Decree Bis”) to art. 6 of Legislative Decree no. n. 28/2011, which  provided the possibility of obtain the simplified authorization procedure (“PAS”) for the construction and entry into operation of plants to produce renewable energy from solar sources with a nominal capacity up to 20 (twenty) MW, connected to the medium voltage electricity grid and located in industrial, productive or commercial areas or inserted in landfills or quarries where environmental restoration activities have been completed.

The Regional Guidelines envisage, in consideration of the final restoration works carried out and of the final destination established by the sector planning (PIAE and PAE) and by the authorization acts agreed for the mining activity, the cases, starting from the new submission’s requests, in which it is possible to place a photovoltaic plant in such areas and in particular:

  1. in quarry areas with final environmental (or agro-vegetational) destination, if, at the mining activity’s conclusion, an intervention of environmental recovery, vegetation restoration or naturalistic restoration has been carried out, and the area has a final naturalistic environmental destination, the location of photovoltaic plants is not allowed. Pursuant to the provisions of Annex I, letter C), of the DAL n. 28/2010, decommissioned quarry areas located in the areas listed in letter A), Annex I of the DAL n. 28/2010 are in any case unsuitable for the installation of photovoltaic plants.
  2. in quarry areas for final agricultural use, if it has been placed a restoration activity, suitable to allow the agricultural reuse, and that carry out a cultivation activity verified by the registration of the relative surfaces to the farms’ regional registry, the following installations are allowed:
    • of so-called “agrovoltaic” plants without the limits and conditions set forth in Annex I, letter B), of DAL no. 28/2010, in compliance with the specifications set forth in the following relevant paragraph.
    • ground-mounted plants, with the limit of 10% use of the agricultural area if the latter is under cultivation.
  3. in quarry areas with final destination to reservoir (or basin), if a final arrangement to reservoir has been put in place, it is allowed the installation of so-called “floating” photovoltaic plants, in compliance with the specifications set forth in the following relevant paragraph.
  4. in abandoned and unrestored quarry areas, if no final restoration has been carried out and the quarry is still abandoned, as assessed by the sectoral planning (PIAE and PAE) and attested by the “Register of mining activities”, it is possible to build ground-mounted plants, without the limits and conditions provided for in Annex I, letter B), of the DAL n. 28/2010, as well as floating plants, if in the same areas a water reservoir has been generated as a result of mining activities.

It is worth pointing out that the final environmental (lett. a), agricultural (lett. b) or reservoir (lett. c) destination is deemed to be valid if:

  1. the acceptance certification regarding the final arrangement works, as provided by the mining activity authorization, has been issued,
  2. the municipal administration has released the amount related to the submitted guarantee.

The Regional Guidelines also provide some indications regarding the project and construction of floating photovoltaic and agrivoltaic plants.

In particular:

A Floating photovoltaic plants

Excluding the water basins located within Protected Nature Areas or Natura 2000 Network sites, in all cases, and in particular in the cases referred to in points c) and d) above, in which it is possible to install a floating photovoltaic plant, such plant must have the following characteristics:

  1. the basin surface occupied by the plant cannot be greater than 50% of the water surface, measured with reference to the maximum extension of the basin in the year preceding the installation;
  2. the panels’ installation must be focused on the central part of the basin, maintaining in any case a minimum distance of the plant’s perimeter from the banks not inferior to 20 meters;
  3. it is necessary in any case to exclude the installation in the areas of the basin where depth is equal to or less than 3 m;
  4. to carry out a contextual enlargement of the natural areas and of the animals’ foraging areas, through the realization of perimetric hedges of at least 5 meters of width, outside the eventual band of elophytes (reeds) that surrounds the basin; such shrubby and arboreal bands must be realized with hygrophilous species characteristic of the regional environments.
B Agrovoltaic plants

In all cases, and in particular in the cases referred to in (b) above, in which the agrovoltaic plants’ installation is possible, the plant must comply with the following characteristics:

  1. realized in order not to jeopardize the cultivation use of the land (attested through a sworn declaration of a qualified technician which describes, both the innovative technological solutions adopted and the agricultural production systems that the company intends to implement, and demonstrates, also through agronomic and environmental interventions and taking into account the characteristics in the site, the compatibility of the photovoltaic plant with the program of agricultural and pastoral cultivation, certifying that this photovoltaic plant does not compromise the continuity of agricultural and pastoral cultivation activities, also allowing the application of digital and precision agriculture tools);
  2. the agrivoltaic plant can adopt innovative technological solutions, which provide for either the vertical assembly of modules, even double-sided, or the assembly of modules elevated from the ground, also equipped with solar trackers. The supporting structure of the plant must still allow the passage of agricultural vehicles suitable for cultivation.

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For a deeper discussion, please contact:

Tommaso Tomaiuolo

PwC TLS Avvocati e Commercialisti