Carbon-neutral farm in Italy

A range of new technologies is being installed at the farm in the central region of Umbria as part of an experiment to cut its CO2 emissions to zero over the course of the next year. They include everything from electric farm vehicles to sun-reflecting paint on storage buildings. It is all taking place at the Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio olive oil farm, north of Rome. With its vineyards and olive trees, this beautiful corner of Italy might look like it has escaped the intrusions of climate change, but the farm’s owners say they, too, have to play their part in making the world greener. “We want to go further than anyone else,” says Lorenzo Fasola Bologna, Monte Vibiano’s chief executive. One of the key investments is in a unique solar powered battery re-charging centre. Built by the Austrian company Cellstrom, the centre is a shed-sized box with 24 solar panels on it that houses a revolutionary liquid-based battery. The battery can, for the first time, store solar energy. Until now, electricity generated by the sun has generally had to be used immediately. It is one reason why opponents say solar power is limited. No longer. Depending on the amount of usage, the battery centre can store solar-sourced electricity for up to three days. They are working to extend that to 10 days and more, enabling the farm to continue operating through foggy days when the sun does not shine.

It means that golf carts and electric bikes will become the key means of transport for farm workers and that they can all charge up at the battery centre. Cellstrom estimates the farm can save 4,500 litres of petrol every year and reduce CO2 emissions by 10 tons. “Yes, it is an expensive initial investment,” says Lorenzo, without revealing the actual cost. “But we think that we will start getting our investment back after five years or so. From then on, our fossil fuel bills will disappear.” Solar power is just one of the ground-breaking technologies being applied to this farm. They call it a multiple layered 360º solution to global pollution. They have bought a fleet of special miniature tractors that use a new generation of bio fuels. The farm says the new fuels will not be coming from food chain products like corn and therefore will not diminish world food supplies. Then there are the farm’s boilers which are used to create heat in the olive oil production process. They will use wood chips instead of methane gas, as in the past. The wood is a renewable source of energy found from supplies already on the farm. Even storage tanks on the farm are being painted white to reflect sunlight away from earth, in an effort to cut the effects of global warming. And, just to make sure they have not left anything else out, they have also planted 10,000 trees to soak up and offset any unforeseen CO2 emissions. By the end of next year they hope to be the first farm, anywhere, to reduce their inherent net carbon footprint to zero – ie without using off-site offsetting projects. (Source: BBC/Read the full article here)

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