Norwegian solar module manufacturer REC, a unit of Chinese chemical company Chemchina, is planning to build its heterojunction PV module factory on the eastern part of the industrial area ZACEuropole II, in Hambach, near Sarreguemines, in the French northwestern region of Moselle.
According to the French National Commission of Public Debate (CNDP), the company initiated the process to start a public consultation on the project on July 23 and in August it filed requests for environmental authorizations and the building permits.
The CNDP validated the launch of the public consultation on November 3 and asked REC to study “flexible” arrangements in order to be able to ensure as many face-to-face meetings as possible. The CNDP should give its final green light on November 28, for a start of consultation on December 14, 2020, and an end scheduled for February 8.
Information meetings, roundtables, exhibitions and workshops are planned from January in several municipalities of the department to present the project to residents. From the end of the consultation, two nominated guarantors will have one month to draw up a report then REC will have two months to present its answers.
According to the preliminary consultation document, the new factory will cover almost 148,000m². The start of work is expected in June 2021. Everything will be done on-site: production of cells, assembly of modules, quality control as well as receipt of raw materials and shipment of finished products. The plant is scheduled to start up in 2022, with 2 GWp produced per year, before reaching its cruising speed in 2025, with 4 GWp/year – 9 million photovoltaic panels manufactured each year.
REC is betting on producing modules that will be compliant with the French rules for building large scale PV plants through the tender mechanism of the French government. These tenders prioritize projects built with low carbon footprints. In addition, REC is betting on the heterojunction technology already in use on a smaller scale at the REC site in Singapore. According to the preliminary consultation document, the research carried out by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), through the National Institute of Solar Energy (INES), found “this technology is now at a mature stage of development and is ready for technology transfer and production on an industrial scale.”
According to the CNDP, the Norwegian manufacturer intends to take advantage of the raising of the targets of the French energy strategy, the so-called Multi-Year Energy Program (PPE) in the field of photovoltaics, which aims to double solar generation capacity in three years and quadruple it in eight years.
The arrival of the Scandinavian manufacturer is expected in a region affected by the economic crisis, with the shutdown of a factory where Daimler-Benz produced its Smart car. The project should create some 1,800 jobs, especially during construction.
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