juwi builds agricultural solar park in Southern France

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After six years, Germany’s juwi group has completed a one-of-a-kind agricultural solar farm project in the French town of Ortaffa.

Located in the Pyrenees of Southern France near the Spanish border, the array comprises nearly 300,000 solar panels and spans 87 hectares, providing energy for some 10,000 households. The park will generate 35.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

The park is the biggest solar project Juwi has ever built in France. The solar farm has also helped to revive the local traditions of sheep farming and beekeeping on-site while also supporting local wine growers.

"We are really proud of this project," says Delphine Guinet, project manager at juwi EnR, the company’s French subsidiary. "It was a grand challenge in ecological as well as in economic and political terms – it took us six years to fulfill the high demands of all parties involved."

The solar park’s total module surface of 21 hectares was subdivided into ten sections in order to guarantee the lowest possible impact on the environment and to preserve the surrounding nature as best as possible, Juwi explained. Hedges, brooks and embankments have been integrated into the park’s overall concept in order to blend it into the surrounding landscape.

As part of the agricultural project, juwi has sowed several varieties of forage crops on approximately 70 hectares of land. The area is now grazed by a flock of 200 sheep that roam freely in the solar park.

"This ‘natural way of mowing’ makes it possible to keep the meadow in perfect condition without using pesticides," the company added.

In order to create a new habitat for the local population bees, juwi also sowed honey-bearing plants on 11 hectares of land that is not covered with solar panels. The plants are now used by a young bee-keeper who set up beehives for honey production.

Furthermore, for each hectare of land covered by solar plants, juwi has provided 4,000 vines of the two highest categories Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) and Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) for the area’s winemakers.

"Our solar park allows us to increase the value of an agricultural zone, which had almost been given up," said Ortaffa Mayor Raymond Pla. "We revived the tradition of wine-growing, beekeeping and farming in the region. As a result of the open dialogue between all parties involved, the park matches the needs of our region and thus stimulates the local economy."

A total of 56 companies were involved in the construction of the project, 40% of them located in the region. "The financial benefits generated by Ortaffa solar and agricultural park will remain in the community and continue to increase the local value chain for more than 20 years and even after the end of the feed-in tariffs," juwi added.

The company pointed out that the efficiency of the project also convinced the French government. The Ortaffa solar and agricultural park won the Regulatory Commission of Energy’s first ever invitation to tender for a photovoltaic project.