Een zonnepanelenpark van Enel in Zuid-Italië © Enel Green Power

Italy’s largest utility company and a research center are launching a trial that combines algae cultivation with solar energy generation on the coast near Naples.

Enel Green Power, the ‘green’ arm of Italian energy provider Enel, is going to test innovative technology near Naples, linking the generation of solar energy to the cultivation of microalgae. Cultivating algae is sustainable because CO2 is the nutrient that algae consume. Algae are able to efficiently convert sunlight into usable energy. This also makes this organism suitable for capturing and converting energy.

Atomic Energy Agency

Enel Green Power is conducting the trial in collaboration with Enea, a research center run by the Italian government, where 2,600 scientists carry out research into new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development. A possibly ironic side note is that before nuclear power was banned there 40 years ago, Enea was founded as Italy’s Atomic Energy Agency.

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    A pilot plant will be built at the Enea center in Portici (Naples) to study and demonstrate how the solar and microalgae technologies can be integrated. A scalability analysis will be carried out at the same time to see if the technology can also be applied to large scale plants.

    Algovoltaic

    The trial involves cultivating microalgae with a high commercial value (between 100 and 200 euros per kilogram) using a cultivation system fully integrated with an array of solar panels. Enel and Enea were unable to provide more detailed information for now.

    “With this agreement,” says Ezio Terzini, director of Enea’s Solar Power and Smart Devices division in a press release, “we are launching a new potentially synergistic approach to shared land use.” Enea calls this branch “algovoltaic” which translates as ‘algae solar power’.

    Read more about microalgae as the food and drink of the future here.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Ewout Kieckens is a Dutch journalist in Rome who writes about Italian lifestyle and culture. He has written books on diverse subjects such as the Vatican and Italian design. He is very interested in innovations, especially Italian contributions to progress.