Arkolia Energies’ Solarzac project is expected to occupy a surface area of around 400 hectares and, due to its potential environmental impact, is now being reviewed by the French national public debate commission (CNDP), which is responsible for environmental protection. According to a CNDP document, the plant is planned to be located across the municipalities of Lodévois et Larzac, in the southern region of Occitanie.
French newspaper Le Monde, meanwhile, has reported that Arkolia Energies will hold a press conference to present the project on April 15. The paper noted that it has already raised concerns among local people and environmentalist associations.
José Bové, a well-known French farmer and leader of the alter-globalization movement, has already made it clear on his blog that he opposes the project, which he said would kill France’s energy transition. “Everything in this project is dangerous: the irremediable damage to the original pastoral vocation of the site by the artificialization of 400 hectares of land, a scandalous water consumption whereas the resource is so rare in our karstic environment (80,000 m3 by year!), the destruction of classified sites and the hunting grounds,” he wrote.
Local environmental group Groupe d’Etude Rapaces Massif C has started a petition on the Avaaz platform to prevent the project from moving forward. “Arkolia Energies, based in Mudaison… has been approaching since January 2018, in total opacity, the local and regional authorities to request, during the presentations of its project, the greatest discretion, in the hope of gaining strong support from them so that they can quickly overcome regulatory and citizen barriers to their investments,” the promoters of the petition wrote. They also claim that the project would occupy land protected under Natura 2000, an EU network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species.
In a recent chat with pv magazine, Xavier Daval, CEO and president of KiloWattsol SAS and chairman of SER-SOLER — the solar division of the French renewable energy association — warned that big PV projects may be rejected by the public if they are not properly introduced and discussed.
“The French community is still not ready for these big projects. We need the construction of solar parks of hundreds of MWs, but maybe not at the moment,” he said at the time, when what would become Europe’s first GW-scale solar project was unveiled.
The 1.2 GW scheme is now being developed on about 1,800 hectares of agricultural land. The project is spread across the four French municipalities of Allons, Boussès, Sauméjan and Pompogne, all of which are in Lot–et–Garonne Department, southern France.
France already hosts Europe’s largest solar plant, the 300 MW Cestas solar farm, which spans a 250-hectare site near the city of Bordeaux.