The widespread diffusion of photovoltaics is the first of the essential prerogatives to achieve the energy goals set for 2030 by the United Nations. The second is the rapid spread of Energy Communities, starting from the low voltage network, thanks to the enabling of energy sharing through the SNOCU Regalgrid.
In Italy, the diffusion of photovoltaics began in the 1970s: the first system was installed in 1979 at the Mandriola Pass. However, we have to wait until the 90s for a massive diffusion of photovoltaics, which was then further facilitated by the first state incentives, the so-called Conto Energia, starting from the 2000s. The numbers acquired greater significance towards 2009, the year of the European Directive first objectives in terms of production and consumption of energy from renewable sources (2009/28 / EC).
Since then, the spread of solar panels has never stopped and the trend continues to be positive even after 15 years. This has thus become a decisive factor for the formation of the Energy Communities approved also in Italy last March 2020.
Regalgrid has always supported and believed in photovoltaics and, with a far-sighted look, in sharing energy. For this reason, while photovoltaics entered the homes of Italians, it worked incessantly on advanced algorithms and technologies that would allow a leap into the future of digital energy and the decentralized distribution model based on smart grids.
But before talking about the future based on virtual infrastructures, let’s see the state of the art of the physical technologies of photovoltaics. Here are some data in detail.
Renewable energies in Italy
The diffusion of Energy Communities in Italy officially started on March 1, 2020, with the conversion into law of the Milleproroghe Decree, a first milestone on the road towards the implementation of the European Directive RED II which will take place by 2021.
But Italy has been attentive and active in the production and consumption of energy from renewable sources since much earlier. In the electricity sector, GSE data show in 2005 a share of energy from RES equal to 16.3% of gross domestic consumption, which reached 33.4% in 2014, the year in which Italy exceeded the National Overall Target 2020 (which includes electricity, heat and transport consumption) 6 years in advance, reaching 17.1%.
Since that year, both overall and electrical consumption of energy from renewable sources have continued to grow. The latest official data of the GSE reports refer to 2018, the year in which 21.6 Mtoe (Mega ton of oil equivalent) of energy from renewable sources were consumed, in terms of CFL (gross final consumption), equal to 17.8% of total consumption. Exceeding Germany and France in this clean consumption, Italy is third in Europe behind Spain and the UK.
Electricity consumption of clean energy in that year reached 33.9%; Gross electricity production from renewables also increased: 9,683 Mtoe which exceeded the production target of 2020.
The renewable energy source that has contributed most to reaching this production quota of electricity is the normalized hydraulic one with 42% of the total energy produced by RES; this is followed by solar photovoltaics with 20%. Bioenergy (17%), wind (16%) and geothermal (5%) also contribute.
Photovoltaic systems installed in Italy
According to statistic data, Italy is the leading country in the world for the consumption of electricity produced by photovoltaic panels and the second in Europe for the size of the photovoltaic sector, behind Germany.
Between 2009 and 2018, the number of systems installed has more than tenfolded, going from 76,593 units to 822,301, and the number will continue to grow also thanks to state tax breaks. The residential sector with approximately 670,124 systems installed overall in 2018, followed by the tertiary sector with approximately 90,000 systems, gives greater boost to the growth of photovoltaics. Installed capacity has therefore been increasing steadily since 2012, reaching a peak of 20.12 GW in 2018.
By dividing the plants in relation to the size, the total installed power is divided into:
- >3 kW: 279.681 plants 760 MW
- 3-20 kW: 476.396 plants for a total power of 3,5 GW
- 20-200 kW: 54.209 plants to 4,2 GW
- 200 kW-1 MW: 10.878 plants to 7,4 GW
- 1-5 MW: 948 plants to 2,3 GW of power
- 5-10 MW: 146 plants to 1,1 GW
- More than 10 MW: 43 plants to 896 MW
At the end of 2018 plants up to 20 kW made up 90% of those installed and 21% of the total power. A figure destined to grow starting this year, given the possibility of joining the Energy Community and collectively self-consuming energy.
In the same way and for the same reason, the choice of connection with the public network, which is the only way authorized by the Milleproroghe decree to exchange clean energy, is destined to be confirmed. The number of connected plants already represented almost all plants in Italy in 2018:
- 97.5% to the low voltage network;
- 2.5% at medium voltage (56.9% of total power);
- very few plants, which do not even reach a percentage point, at high voltage with a power of 6.4% of the total.
Self-consumption from photovoltaic systems
In 2018, the self-consumption of the energy produced by each family with its own solar photovoltaic system was 38%, while the remaining 61% of production was paid into the network using mechanisms such as on-site exchange. The percentage of self-consumed energy is destined to increase: first of all due to the increasing diffusion of storage systems that help individual self-consumption, and, starting this year, thanks to the Energy Communities, which support an electricity consumption model based on collective self-consumption.
The “large and centralized” energy model is in fact giving way to the “small and distributed” one: Italy is slowly embracing the concept of smart grid which reflects the intention of the RED II European Directive to push people to collective self-consumption both instantaneous and deferred, in a vision of community collaboration enabled by nodes as allowed by SNOCUs and by intelligent algorithms such as those of the Regalgrid® energy platform.
The spread of photovoltaics in the Italian regions
The distribution of the plants in Italy is very diversified. Although the southern regions are those that enjoy the best irradiation and therefore potentially more productive, the highest concentration of plants is in the north (about 55%). The remainder is divided between South (28%) and Center (17%). The two regions with the highest number of photovoltaic systems are the Lombardy region with 120,699 plants (15.2%) and the Veneto with 110,059 (13.9%).
At the provincial level, the 2017 distribution is confirmed: Rome is the first province for the number of panels installed (3.9% of the national total) followed by Treviso and Brescia (3.2%).
Speaking instead of total installed power, Puglia contributes the most, with 13.2% followed by Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont. Production reflects the distribution of power: Puglia is the first region for energy production with 3,438 GW (15.5% of the national total). Followed by Lombardy with 2,252 GWh (9.6%) and Emilia-Romagna with 2,187 GWh (9.5%).
As for the choice of the type of panels, polycrystalline silicon ones prevail in all regions, followed by monocrystalline ones. Thin film panels are not very common.
The renewable municipalities
At the local level it is necessary to underline the presence of photovoltaic panels in most municipalities, but above all how the “renewable municipalities” are increasing more and more, that is, those municipalities that are able to fully cover their needs with energy from renewable sources. The municipalities also powered with clean energy in 2018 were 3,054. In these situations, the Public Administrations very often need to create self-supporting microgrids, as in the case of public lighting or some municipal structures with several adjacent buildings. The support and presence of Regalgrid also in this case is essential to orchestrate the various assets on the network thanks to SNOCUs with storage or prosumer licenses.
Even more avant-garde for 2018 were those 41 municipalities fully supported by RES also for the needs of families. These two numbers will continue to increase, especially now with the possibility of creating energy communities that help each other in offsetting consumption and optimize resources.
We are only at the beginning of a revolution that is however running fast and to the great satisfaction of those who are supporting it, but above all of those who care about environmental sustainability and the quality of life in particular of future generations, such as Regalgrid. Since its establishment, our company has made a continuous commitment to researching and inventing a way to make renewable generation installations even more convenient, especially if small and distributed like residential ones, which are by far the most widespread. .
Regalgrid, thanks to its patented platform and its SNOCUs installed for each node of the smart grid, is able to orchestrate all the “tools” of an assorted Energy Community in a very varied and dynamic way: regardless of the manufacturer of the inverters or accumulators or panels photovoltaic or heat pumps or electric vehicle charging stations, Regalgrid automatically and in real time manages the conditions for maximum individual and collective self-consumption for each participant, be it a consumer, accumulator or producer of energy or a combination of this conditions.
This is possible because Regalgrid immediately saw the possibility that these mixed aggregations or energy communities would sooner or later be born, and aimed at the distributed, but coordinated and shared management of all these different “energy assets”. That “sooner or later” has finally arrived in Italy as well.