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Campo fotovoltaico

Solar power numbers
in 5 photos


How much energy does a solar farm produce? Does it work when it rains? We have responded to these and other interesting questions about photovoltaic technology with 5 images.

February 16th 2024


The striking view from the top of a solar farm, where sunlight reflects off the surface of the panels. The orientation and inclination of the panels, or modules, are always chosen according to the available space and area with the aim of maximizing power generation. There are two types of fixing and supporting structures: fixed or motorized (tracker). What if it is raining or the sky is cloudy, as in the picture? The sun's rays still reach the surface of the panels, albeit with less intensity, meaning that some energy is produced even when it is foggy or raining. All plants are monitored remotely, allowing you to see key production and performance parameters in real time. 


The photovoltaic panels measure about 1 by 2 meters each and are made of silicon cells, which is what captures and converts solar radiation into electricity. Multiple modules  are connected in what is called a solar cell string. Fixing structures support and secure the modules with the correct orientation and inclination. In the case of trackers (motorized), these follow the movement of the sun through the sky and adjust their inclination accordingly. The inverter collects the energy generated by the PV modules (direct current) and converts it to alternating current (AC) and then feeds it into the power and distribution grid. Interesting fact: every year, the PV panels are cleaned with demineralized water, usually in the spring, to remove impurities from the surface that are deposited which, if left, can alter the performance and production capacity of the PV system.


How large can a solar farm be? In northern France, the 100-hectare Plenitude solar farm in Athies-Samoussy is one of the ten largest solar power plants in the country, producing about 90 GWh per year, equivalent to the domestic consumption of 40,000 households. In Italy, on the other hand, due to its geography, the available spaces are smaller although the yield is quite high: in about 2 hectares of land, almost 2 GWh of electricity can be generated from the sun. In Italy, Plenitude has installed 150 MegaWatts of power, including a significant amount at Eni production sites: Assemini and Porto Torres in Sardinia, Gela in Sicily, and Trecate and Volpiano in Piedmont. Some of these plants were built on reclaimed industrial land, meaning areas that are not used for agriculture or livestock production. 


After 1839, when electricity production from the sun was first observed in the laboratory, how long did it take until we got the first photovoltaic panel? 40 years. But it was not until the 1960s that it became a product for private users. In Italy, the first photovoltaic panel was installed in 1979 in the Mandriola Pass of the Apennines in the province of Cesena. And when it comes to innovation, did you know that today there are even double-sided solar panels? That's right: they can generate power even from the back facing the ground! The silicon cells facing downwards collect reflected light radiation from the ground and surroundings (obviously in smaller amounts than the side facing the sun). 


Photovoltaic technology is critical to the performance of a panel. Innovation is an indispensable driver to stay ahead of the times and lead to the best performing products to generate energy from renewable sources. For Plenitude, which is supported by Eni, research never stops. Take, for example, our work at the Renewable, New Energies and Material Science Research Center in Novara, Piedmont. This center of excellence is dedicated to renewables, the circular economy, and energy storage. It is a place where innovation and digital technologies play a decisive role in accelerating the transition to carbon neutrality. 

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