Total to install 200 MW of solar atop 5,000 service stations


French oil giant Total has earmarked an investment of $300 million for the installation of 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems atop its service stations over the next five years.

The project will add 200 MW of solar PV capacity globally, and marks one of Total’s largest forays into the solar PV sector just a few days after the company’s CEO was one of ten oil and gas figureheads to sign a $1 billion investment pledge for clean energy technology development.

Total will leverage its close partner, U.S. solar power developer SunPower, to supply the solar panels for the project, which will produce electricity equivalent to that required to power a city of 200,000 people once complete. The French company also calculates that it will save $40 million in its electricity bills a year, and lower its annual carbon emissions by 100,000 tons.

"The project is fully aligned with Total’s ambition of becoming the responsible energy major and its commitment to developing solar power," said Total president of gas, renewables and power Philippe Sauquet. "The panels will be supplied by our affiliate SunPower, which offers the world’s most efficient solar technology."

Total confirmed that 800 of the 5,000 installations will be located in France. The details of the project follow on from a pledge by leading members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) to invest $1 billion over the next ten years in technology that will help the world’s ten largest oil and gas companies to lower their carbon footprint.

This initiative received immediate criticism among environmentalists, who alleged that it was merely a piecemeal offering in the fight against climate change. Total, however, has been a little more progressive than many of its oil rivals, investing $1.1 billion earlier this year to acquire storage developer Saft. This deal was seen as a positive step into the renewables sector by the French firm, and a forward-thinking move that will support solar’s ambitions to become the leading source of electricity generation globally.

Indeed, Total’s gas, renewables and power segment was only created in April this year, prompting the company to state at the time: "We have multiple ambitions in renewables in 20 years’ time: be in the top three in solar power, expand in electricity trading and energy storage, and be a leader in biofuels."

Total has a majority stake in SunPower – a $1.3 billion deal that was made back in 2011.