Solar power and sheep, rather than soldiers


Project planners are always looking for suitable locations on which to build solar projects, but Germany's BayWa r.e. has struck gold with two disused military sites in France.

The Munich-based company began decontaminating and converting the Fontenet military site in southwestern France about a decade ago. In the meantime, it has used around half of the former military base to generate renewable electricity.

The first 12 MW solar plant at the site went online in 2014 and a second one is expected to be completed by the end of this year, withe a capacity of 14.7 MW. In February, BayWa r.e. also connected a 30 MW solar park to the grid at La Martinerie, another disused military site.

“It's not just about letting a few sheep graze on the property,” said Benoît Roux, head of solar development and acquisitions at BayWa r.e. France. “We rely on long-term contracts that enable meaningful agricultural benefits through renewable energy projects.”

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The sheep also take care of ground maintenance at the solar parks. BayWa r.e. designed the PV systems from the start to enable agricultural use. For example, watering points have already been created for the animals and various types of plants are being grown for sheep grazing.

“In addition, biodiversity is promoted, native species are protected and economic activities and jobs are created locally,” said Roux.

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