Photovoltaic revamping: what it is and how it works

Most Italian photovoltaic systems installed between 2001 and 2014 are in need of revamping, if they are to qualify for the Conto Energia incentive scheme. GSE, the Energy Services Manager, has outlined the parameters and regulations that these improvements must conform to in order for the plants to continue to receive the feed-in tariffs and contribute to eco-sustainable development

Published on 22 May 2020

Gli interventi di revamping per il rinnovamento degli impianti fotovoltaici italiani

Of the more than 820 thousand photovoltaic plants in Italy, almost 650 thousand (nearly 80%) were installed prior to 31 December 2014, the final year of the Conto Energia  feed-in tariff incentive scheme. This mechanism is no longer accessible to those who decide to install new PV plants but it continues to benefit owners of plants installed when the scheme was in place, and will continue to do so, paying a feed-in tariff for every kWh fed onto the grid, for a period of 20 years. Owners of plants that qualify for the Conto Energia therefore have a vested interest in keeping them running as efficiently as possible and even upgrading their performance (within certain limits) in order to take full advantage of the benefits of producing solar energy.

Although they are long-lasting, with an estimated useful life of around 30 years, the photovoltaic plants installed in Italy in time for the Conto Energia are beginning to show their age and are not as efficient as they once were. To allow their owners to restore them to their original power, or even improve it slightly, a type of renovation work has been outlined that goes by the name of “photovoltaic revamping”, the guidelines of which were presented in 2016 by the Energy Service Manager GSE (Gestore Servizi Energetici).

So how does photovoltaic revamping work? It doesn’t just mean regenerating the photovoltaic panels but rather a wide-ranging series of types of renovation work that the GSE has classified as either “substantial” or “non-substantial”.

The “substantial” types of renovation work include the removal of key components, such as modules and inverters, and their replacement with new ones; the relocation, including partial relocation, of modules; the modification of the energy sale system or the variation of the identification code at the grid connection point. If one of the above modifications is made on a plant with a capacity greater than 3kW, the owner is obliged to inform the GSE within 60 days of the completion of the work. If the owner fails to do so, and an inspection takes place, then the owner risks losing the right to receive the feed-in tariffs. These types of renovation work are permitted to increase the nominal capacity of the plant by no more than 5% for systems with a capacity of up to 20kW, and by no more than 1% for plants with a capacity greater than 20 kW.

The “non-substantial” types of renovation work, which do not require mandatory communication to the GSE, include the relocation of the inverters and minor electrical components, the replacement of minor electrical parts, such as cables, and work on the support structures, both the metal frames and masonry such as roofs that house the photovoltaic modules.

Owners of photovoltaic plants with a capacity of less than 3KW are not obliged to inform GSE about modifications, but must comply with the regulations of the edition of the Conto Energia relevant to their plant.

Photovoltaic revamping can be applied for a number of reasons. In addition to wear and tear, problems with the original plant design can also be corrected and upgrades made to comply with evolving safety standards.

The importance of revamping is also relevant to the goal of digitalising energy assets, which is useful for the integration of energy data concerning consumption and production in a single platform to monitor performance, but also to carry out active (and remote) management of assets with a view to implementing preventative maintenance.

Thanks to improved performance after these types of renovation work, plants are able to recoup the investment within 2 or 3 years.

Another small step within the context of the European Green Deal, the socio-economic programme defined by the EU to make the continent’s economy more sustainable without increasing land take.

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