France opens biggest solar carport

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Renewable energy developer Neoen has installed a 16.3 MW solar array on a car park in Corbas, France.

Covering 12.5 hectares and 4,600 industrial parking bays, the installation is the largest carport project built in a country that has long championed solar in urban landscapes and continues a growing international trend of installing PV over parking spaces.

“Solar carports are growing in popularity and scale,” said Juliette Moutarlier, project manager at Neoen. “They are notably being adopted by logistics centers and car park operators who benefit from a greener image, local energy production and a new source of income.”

The Corbas project cost €19.1 million and took just five months to build. It is selling 19.5 GWh of electricity per year to the grid at a €0.102/kWh feed-in-tariff set by the French government.

Grid savings

Xavier Barbaro, managing director of Neoen, said generation costs for the Corbas carport are around 50% higher than for ground mounted PV but that the difference is largely offset by savings on electricity transmission rates.

“You can produce electricity at something like €80-90/MWh with a solar carport, compared to around €50‑60/MWh for a ground mounted array,” said Barbaro, “but don’t forget that you are also saving along the lines of €30/MWh on grid costs.”

The Neoen MD added, the challenge to self-consuming electricity from carports is that there is no on-site demand for 16.3 MW of power. However, with electric vehicles being rolled out, he sees that situation changing.

Another key advantage of solar carports is that they do not change the use of the land on which they are installed. “This is important in France, where regulators and the public are particularly sensitive to the integration of PV in the landscape,” said Neoen’s Moutarlier, adding it makes sense to install solar in built-up and naturally degraded sites.

“Ground mounted solar in some parts of the countryside is already meeting opposition but we so far have never heard anyone complain about installing a solar panel on their car park,” she said.

By Benedict O’Donnell.