France installs 879 MW of solar in 2015

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Normally, an 8% annual decline in a solar PV market would not be good news. However, after big declines in 2012 and 2013 due to restructuring of the nation’s compensation system, stable market volumes over the last two years are a good sign for France.

On Monday, France’s Ministry of Energy, Ecology and Sustainable Development (MEDDE) released 2015 solar market figures, which show 897 MW of solar PV installed. This is very close to the 895 MW that French grid operator RTE reported earlier in February.

MEDDE also reports that another 559 MW of PV plants have signed interconnection agreements but have not yet been connected to the grid.

Neoen’s massive 300 MW (DC) Cestas project near Bordeaux, which was reported by MEDDE as coming online in the third quarter, made up more than 1/4 of new capacity this year. The project’s impact shows in figures on both the size and location of installations.

Due to Cestas, installations larger than 250 kW made up 70% of new capacity during the year, as opposed to less than 50% of installed capacity to date.

Additionally, the Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes region on France’s Atlantic coast, which includes Bordeaux, now has the largest installed capacity of France’s 13 continental regions at 1.6 GW. This is a greater capacity than either of the two regions which border the Mediterranean Sea.

Including overseas territories, France reached 6.5 GW of installed PV by the end of the year. During 2015 PV produced 6.7 terawatt-hours, a 23% increase over 2015. MEDDE estimates that this allowed PV to meet 1.4% of electric demand in 2015, slightly less than the 1.6% that RTE earlier estimated.