What is the potential for development of agrivoltaic projects in France?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: We are at the end of a first cycle of ground-mounted solar development in France. For the past 15 years, the government has been favoring large-scale solar power plants on degraded land. Now these sites are becoming increasingly rare with more and more challenges, particularly with regard to environmental issues. To accelerate the development of solar energy, several interests must coexist on the same project, whether on ecological or agricultural matters. Agrivoltaics is a very important element for the development of photovoltaic in France, as long as it is well conceived, meaning the PV installation is virtuous for the activity with which it coexists, beyond a simple remuneration.
How can agri-solar pairing be beneficial for agricultural land and activities?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: The combination of a solar energy source with a cultivated land or a livestock farm provides different benefits. First of all, it offers the crop a protection against climatic hazards such as hail or extreme temperatures by creating a rotating shade on the plot. This allows the regulation of temperature and the shift between moments of water and the heat stress of plants. It also reduces evapotranspiration and, as a result, water consumption. For example, on the first soybean harvest of our project in Amance, we have reported a 75% reduction in water stress under the system compared to the reference plot!
Each developer has a specific set of requirements for the solution they have designed. TSE has developed a range of products that meet specific needs and field constraints to provide agri-PV solutions for crops, livestock sites, fallow land, and so on.
What are the technological features to be considered?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: The main constraints that we integrate are related to the orientation of the plots, their typology, their topography, and of course, to the traditional requirements of solar power plants. What makes TSE's solutions specific is that they are designed based on the needs of the agricultural activity. The challenge for us is to provide the farmer with a service that adapts to his farming practices, whether in terms of cultivation or mechanization. Our canopy allows the passage of almost all agricultural machinery thanks to an inter-pole space of 27 meters in the direction of cultivation with a low point at 5 meters.
Who are your different partners and how do you work with them?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: We are developing large volumes of projects in line with the incredible challenge facing the country. We rely on partners who are both well established locally and capable of industrializing large volumes, like Huawei for our inverters.
More from our partners
How can agrivoltaics help to achieve the objectives of the energy transition in France?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: The energy crisis in which France has been immersed for the past two years is more related to a capacity crisis than to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. France needs to develop its electricity production capacity exponentially over the next 10 to 15 years for three reasons: first, we need to decarbonize our energy mix, which is still 61% fossil fuel. This will involve the electrification of uses and the development of decarbonized energy sources such as hydrogen; secondly, we need to replace the huge nuclear capacity that will be phased out between 2030 and 2035 ─ in the hope that these plants will operate until then under acceptable conditions in terms of cost and availability; and finally, because we want to reindustrialize the country, solar energy ─ as the cheapest, quickest to deploy, and most accepted source of energy ─ will be the best possible answer to complement our historic nuclear fleet.
In France, the law on the acceleration of renewable energy production of March 10, 2023, has given a framework for photovoltaic installations on agricultural land. What does this change for the industry?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: Although imperfect, this law has a double value. It is the first law dedicated to renewable energies, showing the will to accelerate. It also provides a clear and binding framework for what agrivoltaics is and should be: the coexistence of two activities, with solar energy production providing a benefit to agriculture that is not only financial.
What are the milestones you aim to achieve in the coming years?
Bertrand Drouot L'Hermine: On a technical level, our innovations are now mature and validated. We are committed to developing more pilot projects with the best technical partners, chambers of agriculture, cooperatives such as Dijon Céréales, INRAE (the National Institute for Agricultural Research), the Purpan agronomy school, or the Institut de l'Elevage, in order to demonstrate the services that our solutions provide. On the other hand, we are developing our solutions more widely throughout the country. TSE is the solar energy producer with the strongest territorial granularity. We develop projects everywhere in France.
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