French olive oil sector seeks relaunch via agrivoltaics


From pv magazine France

Relaunching a French industrial sector for the production of olive oil is the goal set by the Oil’Ive Green network of producers, based in Villemoustaussou, a commune in the Aude department in southern France.

“In France, we only produce 5,000 tonnes of olive oil per year, while we consume 120,000 tonnes every year,” said Yannick Masmondet, general manager of Oil'ive Green, whose objective is to cultivate 50,000 hectares of olive trees, for the production of edible oil and biofuels, in the next decade.

However, like many agricultural crops, olive cultivation is today affected by climate change, driving the decline in farm productivity. This is why the company signed an exclusive partnership with Spanish energy producer Iberdrola to develop agrivoltaic solutions in synergy with olive growing and support the diversification of wine-growing areas.

The two sides will identify farms to host agrivoltaic project in New Aquitaine, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie. The agrivoltaic power plants mounted on solar trackers will then be specifically adapted to olive growing carried out in “fruit hedges” on agricultural areas of several tens of hectares.

“The technical and agronomic support in the face of climate change, the gain in productivity and the economy generated by the agrivoltaic plant will allow operators to develop and perpetuate their activity, and for those who wish to diversify into olive tree cultivation, to finance and facilitate their reconversion,” said Thierry Vergnaud, development director of the land branch of Iberdrola France.

Iberdrola said fruit hedge management associated with agrivoltaics should promote agronomic gains through the physical protection of trees against climatic hazards such as hail, late frost, and leaf burns, among others. Solar panels will also prevent soil drying by maintaining a sufficient level of humidity for crops, without having to resort to irrigation.

Iberdrola said that wine growers will receive technical and agronomic assistance for cultivation, along with regular additional income as needed, throughout the entire 30-year operation of agrivoltaic plants, enabling them to start production from the third year.

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