France adds 88 MW of new PV in first quarter, weighs carbon footprint of future projects


France installed 88 MW of new PV capacity in the first quarter of 2013, according to a report published last week by the French general office for sustainable development (CGDD).

Cumulative PV capacity in France at the end of March reached reached 4.11 GW. This year’s first-quarter installations decreased by 76% compared to the first three months of 2012, when France added 370 MW of new PV.

Likewise, in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010, France installed 364 MW and 111 MW of new PV, respectively, according to the CGDD report.

This year’s first-quarter figure is the lowest since 2009. Nearly 84% of the newly added photovoltaic power between January and March of this year comes from small installations of up to 100 kW each. By contrast, the majority of new PV capacity in 2012 was commissioned through plants larger than 250 kW.

The report also had some good news for the industry. About 18,000 PV projects totaling 552 MW, and for which interconnection agreements have been signed, are expected to go online in the coming months, CGDD reported.

France’s geographic areas with the highest photovoltaic installations include the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the Aquitaine and the Midi-Pyre?ne?es regions, where PV capacity at the end of March reached 538 MW, 435 MW and 426 MW, respectively.

Responding to the the CGDD report, the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy said the decrease in new photovoltaic and wind installations recorded in the first quarter of 2013 was the result of decisions taken by the previous government in late 2011 and early 2012 on the tariff and regulatory measures to support renewable energy.

The new measures launched in January 2013, the French Ministry said, will produce positive results and strengthen business activity in the PV sector.

The Ministry, meanwhile, has approved 138 new PV projects totaling 30 MW of capacity from its fifth round of PV tenders, which ran from Oct.1 to Dec. 21. The projects, all rooftop installations, range between 100 and 250 KW each.

Energy Minister Delphine Batho said this was the last time a tender would not take into account the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process of photovoltaic modules.

In announcing the sixth round of tenders in March, the Ministry informed applicants that the carbon footprint criterion would account for a third of overall project ratings. The latest round of tenders includes 120 MW of medium sized rooftop PV installations, each between 100 and 250 KW, by 2015.

In March, when announcing a tender for 400 MW of PV plants 250 kW and larger, the Ministry also said the tender would take into account the carbon footprint of the projects and their contribution to research and development in terms of increasing innovation and employment in France.

The government changed the conditions for tenders in January as part of measures to boost PV development and increase the ecological competitiveness of France.

Edited by Edgar Meza