One of a Kind Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant and Agricultural Park in the French Pyrenees

Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant

Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant ( Solar Thermal Magazine ) – Nearly 300,000 solar panels, a total size of 87 hectares and clean energy for 10,000 households – these are the impressive dimensions of the solar and agricultural park Ortaffa. The solar photovoltaic power plant in the French Pyrenees close to the Spanish border is the biggest solar project the internationally operating juwi group has ever built in France so far.

What is more, through special measures the park revives the local tradition of sheep farming and beekeeping on-site and enables the agricultural heritage of wine-growing to rise again.

“We are really proud of this project,” says Delphine Guinet, project manager at juwi EnR, the French subsidiary of the German project developer juwi.

It was a grand challenge in ecological as well as in economic and political terms – it took us six years to fulfill the high demands of all parties involved.” The result, however, is a one of a kind solar and agricultural park: Annually, the 300,000 solar panels transform the power of the sun into 35.5 million kilowatt hours of eco-friendly electricity while at the same time the park enhances the local wine- and agricultural heritage.

Therefore, the solar park with its total module surface of 21 hectares was subdivided into ten sections in order to guarantee the lowest possible impact on the environment and to preserve the surrounding nature as best as possible. By doing so, the park blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape. Hedges, brooks and embankments have also been integrated into the park’s ecological overall concept.

On approximately 70 hectares of land juwi has sowed several varieties of forage crops. They had been selected by a seed producer and a sheep farmer. Nowadays, the area is grazed by a flock of 200 sheep of the breed “Rouge du Roussillon”, which can roam freely in the solar park. This “natural way of mowing” makes it possible to keep the meadow in perfect condition without using pesticides.

In order to create a new habitat for the local population of the bee species “Noire du Roussillon”, juwi has also sowed honey-bearing plants on 11 hectares of the land that is not covered with solar panels. The plants are now used by a young bee-keeper, who set up beehives for the honey production. The new honey bearing plants allow the local bee population to expand while biodiversity is enhanced at the same time.

Furthermore, for each hectare of land covered by the solar plants, juwi provides 4,000 vines of the two highest categories AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) and IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) to the winemakers. In this case, these are 43 hectares of vineyard to be replanted on the best soil in the Ortaffa region.

“Our solar park allows us to increase the value of an agricultural zone, which had almost been given up. We revived the tradition of wine-growing, beekeeping and farming in the region. As a result of the open dialogue between all parties involved, the park matches the needs of our region and thus stimulates the local economy”, says Raymond Pla, Mayor of Ortaffa.

During all phases of the development, Ortaffa solar park has had a positive effect on the local job market. A total of 56 companies were involved in the construction works, 40 percent of them located in the region. The financial benefits generated by Ortaffa solar and agricultural park will remain in the community and continue to increase the local value chain for more than 20 years and even after the end of the feed-in tariffs.

The efficiency of the project also convinced the French government. Ortaffa solar and agricultural park won the Regulatory Commission of Energy’s (CRE) first ever invitation to tender for a photovoltaic project.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.