Now abandoned or otherwise unused, brownfield sites were once home to commercial or industrial facilities that brought jobs, steady incomes and economic vitality to communities around the world. Changing economics, technology and demographics led to many a demise, leaving a legacy of times past that includes the hazards of environmental pollution.
Governments, utilities, civic and business leaders in various cities and municipalities are looking to turn things around and revitalize brownfield sites and surrounding communities by cleaning them up and building emissions-free renewable energy and energy storage facilities on them.
Building PV solar or other renewable energy facilities on brownfield sites opens up opportunities to resolve the problems that brownfields pose economically, environmentally and socially.
In 2015, solar PV systems generated 24.676 GWh of emissions-free electricity—7.8 percent of Italy’s electricity. That was 13 percent more than 2014’s level. That’s encouraging news for solar energy industry participants and renewable energy proponents, especially since Italy eliminated its solar feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme in 2013. That leaves net metering as the sole national government incentive supporting capacity increases.
Nonetheless, Italy continues to number among the world’s top 10 nations when it comes to installed solar power generation capacity. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 18,622 MW of solar power capacity had been installed in Italy as of year-end 2014, putting it ahead of the U.S., a country with a much larger population and land area.
ENI intends to add to Italy’s total and contribute to nationwide efforts to realize national, EU and international greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and renewable energy goals by developing solar power projects on brownfield sites.
“In the next three years investments in renewable projects will be around 500 million euros with a similar amount for scientific research,” CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the Eni annual shareholder meeting on May 12. ENI expects to install more than 220 MW of solar power capacity at home in Italy alone at an estimated cost of 200 million-250 million euros over the period. Prospective sites have been identified in Basilicata, Calabria, Liguria, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily.
The company’s green energy agenda includes developing solar energy projects in Egypt and Pakistan, as well as in Italy. All told, ENI aims to bring a total of 420 MW of renewable power generation capacity online by 2022, most of it solar.
The focus is on installing solar PV systems on brownfield sites ENI owns that are adjacent to or nearby its existing oil and gas facilities and power distribution infrastructure. Capitalizing on land it owns and its existing natural gas facilities, infrastructure and expertise, ENI plans to build hybrid solar-natural gas power facilities that can reliably and economically dispatch low-emissions electricity night and day.
In May 2016, management announced ENI would invest 1 billion euros in renewable energy over the next three years. That would double the amount it invested over the past three.