A Medicean Retreat for Solar Energy Business

It is possibly an ideal site to hold an energy business event. At least for Claudia Bettiol, President of Energitismo, who was invited to present elegance in solar energy business and to introduce the Solar Sculptures and Solar Jewellery.

The town is Artimino near Carmignano in Tuscany. In the Renaissance, when the summers got too hot, when the diseases hit and the ‘popolo minuto’ of Florence suffered, and when the politics swayed against them, the Medici often retired to their hillside refuges, ‘castles in the sky’ above Florence.

Artimino is one such castellated village, generally North west of Florence. Towards the end of the Renaissance, a villa was built on hill about 500 metres from Artimino along a ridge, It is now the Artimino Resort comprising the Villa Medicea (La Ferdinanda) and the Hotel ‘Paggeria Medicea’, and it has been the site for the Energy Business Forum by Richmond Italia. The Medici were renowned for their sponsorship of art and technology, not for war, but for beauty and culture, to make themselves and the citizens of Florence smile and be proud.

In contradiction, the past several years in Italy have produced new solar energy technology that blights the beauty of Italy, and does not excite. It covers the hillsides with shiny black reflectors like a scene out of a ‘Star Wars’ movie. The establishment of solar energy business has cast a pall over the future of our Italian landscape, replacing many of the flowers and fields of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio with Chinese built silicon ‘financial’ structures installed solely to make money, not for the environmental benefit of society – the overall energy recovery period for this form of solar energy is well-disguised number.

These structures are technology and finance ‘push’ at their worst, where only greed is fed and the grid marginally affected. I think to the end of life of these planar monsters and wonder what will be left of the potential beauty of the hillsides where all native life is abhorrence to the solar energy farm.

Dostoyevsky would turn in his grave, except here in Artimino, where apparently wisdom has won sway and the Hills are still covered in grass, vineyards, olive groves and Tuscan cypress trees.

As the delegates look out from the balcony of the villa, past the Italian Gardens, over the wonderful green countryside, I wonder whether they see the colours, the trees and fields, the villas among the groves, the play of sun and shade, or do they imagine another banker’s chance to grab a plot of Southern hillside and do a solar energy deal at ‘grid parity’ for 8 or 10% return.

How can they value sustainability and elegance when sustainability is measured in social values, not their tools of electrons and cents per KWh? When, if ever, will the populus have a chance to produce or purchase energy that has aesthetic value – the logic of this proposal is no different to that involved in purchasing a car – elegance is the answer – and it can be sustainable.

In the early evening we can take a stroll along to the walled village and wander up past the parking area to find the Bottega Peruzzi. We stand out on the balcony and look back at the villa while sipping a glass of the local favourite wine, Rosata and sharing simple tastes of antipasti. Whether it is warm or cool, this is for us simple elegance and sustainable society.