France ushers in 3 GW solar tender across six rounds

France sits at an enviable location in Europe that makes it one of the world’s most visited countries. Not too hot, not too cold, dotted with mountains and verdant fields, and ringed by some of the finest beaches on the continent.

Perfect for vacations, perfect for solar. But solar has been slow to gain a foothold relative to potential in the country, and with 6.7 GW of cumulative capacity installed France lags its gray and rainy northern neighbor, the U.K., its hot southern neighbor, Spain, and the two solar giants to the east – Germany and Italy.

However, the government appears to at least be coming to terms with its solar shortsightedness, and this week announced that it will launch a series of solar PV tenders next year to support an additional 3 GW of PV by 2020.

The energy ministry will oversee a series of six tenders of 500 MW each, beginning in 2017. This steady and regular roll out of available projects will, the ministry said, provide stability and visibility to the French solar industry, delivering jobs and aiding the country’s carbon reduction efforts.

The tenders will be available to ground-mounted PV systems between 500 kW and 17 MW in size, and the first round of bidding ends on February 1, 2017.

During each of the six, 500 MW rounds, 300 MW capacity will be reserved for solar farms larger than 5 MW, while 135 MW of capacity will be for plants with a capacity between 500 kW and 5 MW. The remaining 65 MW will be offered to developers looking to build PV systems on carports, provided they are sized between 500 kW and 10 MW.

France is famously largely nuclear-powered, but a new solar support mechanism introduced in May – whereby bidders receive a premium on top of the market price for the PV power they feed to the grid – will hopefully deliver the types of revenue guarantee that can help the country make the transition towards more renewables.

France’s solar installation aims target 10.2 GW of PV by the end of 2018, with anywhere between 18.2 GW to 20.2 GW by 2023.