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Italy: Projects for Energy Transition

From floating wind power to renewable energy communities, millions of euros are allocated to green research activities: the aim is to give a decisive push towards decarbonisation, and the reduction of the country’s energy dependency.

An allocation of 210 million euros to oversee and develop product and process technologies essential for the energy transition: these are the resources of the three-year Electricity System Research (RSE) Plan 2019-2021, which enabled the development of innovative projects in the field of electricity. Today they are more necessary than ever to give a decisive push towards decarbonisation and the progressive reduction of the country’s energy dependence.
This funding (which costs the Italian taxpayer as much as a cup of coffee a year) has enabled ENEA, CNR and RSE, the national research bodies able to make the most of the funds, as well as the companies participating in the calls for research projects, to achieve important results: from innovations in the field of power-to-gas for storing electricity from renewable sources to storage systems with micro-batteries; from floating wind power to thermodynamic solar energy, from energy from the sea to the optimisation of software used for the development of energy communities. 

Anticipating the European Green Deal

These research activities are not only necessary for the national strategies of the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) and the PNIEC (National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2030), but they prove to be far-sighted because they anticipate the European strategic indications defined by the Green Deal, with the Fit for 55 and REPowerUe packages. The former has the goal of achieving ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2050; the latter, on the other hand, was adopted by the European Commision to overcome dependence on Russian gas through an acceleration of the energy transition, and independence of procurement.

Specifically, in the 2019-2021 Three-Year Electricity System Research Plan, ENEA received funding of around 67 million euro for research activities aimed at developing product and process technologies, as well as models and tools for the energy transition and decarbonisation of the national electricity system. These activities involve more than 550 researchers in 10 R&D projects, and 38 universities as co-beneficiaries with a 20% share of ENEA funding. Investments have also been made in capital goods which contribute to increasing research and innovation capacity in the various fields of action, from renewable energy sources to energy efficiency, energy storage, and the integration of different carriers. The new PTR 2022-2024 will be developed in accordance with the general objectives of the Horizon Europe programme, PNIEC, PTE and PNRR on green technologies, energy transition, digitalisation and network evolution. In this regard, four integrated projects have been proposed in the areas of high-efficiency photovoltaics, energy storage systems, hydrogen and cyber security. The aim is to maximise the spin-offs of the results achieved, creating synergies between the public research world and businesses.

Cooperation between CNR and industry

The CNR (National Research Centre) also contributed to the Electricity System Research with a strong focus on the engineering of existing technologies, in order to lay the foundations for future technological breakthroughs. The 2019-2021 Programme Agreement has also acted as a driving force for CNR’s cooperation with industry. An example of this is the project ‘FOURIER – Efficient photovoltaics in façades for the near future of the electrical network’, financed by the 2020 RdS-Bandi programme, born from the strategic partnership between three major companies in the electrical, photovoltaic and building sectors.

The complexity and breadth of the scope of the activities, the great relevance of the topics dealt with and the particular phase of ecological transition to which all the countries on the planet are called, have also made RSE’s activities particularly relevant.
Evidence of this is provided by the numerous contributions in support of the government in analysing the impact of decarbonisation energy-environmental policies on the energy and electricity systems. Significant progress has also been made in the area of electric mobility, through an innovative system for managing the recharging of electric vehicles, and on the territory, following the development of renewable energy communities. 

Some of the developed projects

As part of the ‘Power to gas’ project, a 100 W system was developed on a laboratory scale to connect the electricity infrastructure with the gas transport infrastructure. It makes it possible to store, through the production of methane or hydrogen, the electrical energy generated at peak times from renewable sources. Various processes and technologies have been implemented both on a laboratory scale and through the development of prototypes, developing four different innovative processes for the production of renewable hydrogen. In the ‘Fuel-Flexibility’ project, experimental studies on the use of natural gas/hydrogen mixtures for electricity generation resulted in the stable operation of a microturbine with concentrations of up to 48% vol. of hydrogen even under fluctuating conditions over time.
The “Integrated Photovoltaics” research focused on: low-cost printing; integration of new cells with a microbattery storage system; tandem cells coupling different absorber materials; strategies for the synergic development of photovoltaics and photosynthesis. 

Two increasingly important themes for a green energy transition

Finally, in the area of innovative materials for energy uses, research focused on two fields which are becoming increasingly important for a green energy transition: the development of a hydrogen economy linked to solar technologies, and wind technologies for marine environments. In the latter sphere, last July saw the launch at sea of the first prototype of Hexafloat, an innovative floating wind turbine platform, a project conducted as part of a collaboration with Saipem and financed by the Electricity System Research. Still on the marine theme, the research project addressed two specific topics related to electricity from the sea: the development of wave generation devices and the actual producibility, environmental compatibility and measurements of the resource.

Finally, we would like to mention a project aimed at the development of methodologies, software tools, prototypes and demonstrators to otpimise electricity transmission and distribution networks and new models of architecture, system management and new regulatory schemes favouring the integration of renewable and non programmable generation, self-production, storage systems and aggregators which take into account electricity penetration.  

Source: Controllo e Misura by PubliTec

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