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Engie, Neoen to build 1GW, subsidy-free solar project in France

January 12, 2021

Greentech Media:

French utility Engie and developer Neoen are planning to invest about €1 billion ($1.2 billion) to build a 1-gigawatt solar-powered low carbon energy park in France, comfortably breaking records for Europe’s largest solar project and incorporating green hydrogen production to supply transportation and energy needs.

The Horizeo project in western France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region will also include the development of a data center that would use power from the project. Engie said remaining power not used by the green hydrogen electrolyzer or data center would be contracted via power purchase agreements (PPAs), with no plans to take advantage of France’s renewable tendering programs.

“This is a real break with the current economic model of renewable energies in France,” Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, deputy CEO of Engie in charge of Renewables, said in a statement. “We are also committed to carrying out an exemplary project in terms of environmental and societal approach. The upcoming public debate will allow us, in particular, to enrich and feed all the components of the project.”

Part of the solar array will also be used for agriculture. The region is heavily forested, and any land cleared for the 1000-hectare project will need to be offset, with interest, by tree planting elsewhere.

The Horizeo project will join sites in UAE and Qatar as a member of the 1 Gigawatt Club. Egypt and India both have gigawatt-scale solar parks housing multiple projects on land cleared and grid-connected for plug-and-play development.

As subsidies for solar have dwindled, project sizes have trended upwards. Neoen’s 300 MW Cestas project, also in France, was completed in 2015, nearly tripling the size of the country’s largest solar plant at the time. Germany’s largest solar project is 187 MW. Spain’s recent unsubsidized solar resurgence has seen a raft of much larger sites as economies of scale and investor appetite tips the scales. Iberdrola’s 500-MW Núñez de Balboa project is up and running and the utility is in the early construction stages of the 590-MW Francisco Pizarro plant.

[John Parnell]

More: Engie and Neoen to build 1GW solar project, with batteries and green hydrogen included

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