France powers up Europe’s self-styled largest floating PV project

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French environment minister Elisabeth Borne described O'MEGA 1 as Europe's largest PV plant as she toured the project last Friday (Image credit: French government)

Top French state officials have helped cut the red ribbon of a floating solar plant that is being touted as Europe’s largest, a project delivered by Paris headquartered Akuo Energy.

Environment minister Elisabeth Borne and state secretary Brune Poirson attended last Friday the operational launch of Akuo’s O’MEGA 1 installation in Southern France.

Documented by social media posts, Borne and Poirson's visit saw them tour the 17MWp plant built since last September over a lake by an old quarry in Piolenc, north of Marseille.

The plant boasts 47,000 panels installed atop the so-called Hydrelio platforms, made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and designed by floating PV specialist Ciel & Terre.

The Hydrelio units, exclusively distributed by Akuo in France, are supposedly built to withstand 210 km/h wind speeds. They cater to systems on irrigation basins and drinking water basins.

Approached by PV Tech in the weeks preceding O’MEGA 1’s powering up, Akuo explained project construction at the 17-hectare site was taken care of by EPC specialist Bouygues Energies.

The plant, Akuo told this publication, was backed with €12.8 million (US$14.28 million) in debt and €4.2 million (US$4.68 million) in equity. Part of the latter was sourced via crowdfunding.  

As Akuo explained earlier this month, the plant will sell its power directly to Swiss energy aggregator E6, with additional revenues set to come via France’s premium tariff scheme.

France eyes all solar segments in race to 35.6-44.5GW

Speaking on Twitter, minister Borne billed the floating plant as France’s first and Europe’s largest. “[This brings] more renewables and zero artificialisation – a national pride!”, she commented.

The floating breakthrough finds the French government ramping up support to all forms of solar energy, with targets set for installed capacity to grow from 9.1GW to 35.6-44.5GW by 2028.

The country – predicted by consultancy Wood Mackenzie to become Europe’s third fastest solar installer over the next five years – recently concluded a 3GW ground-mounted auction programme.

Paris will next follow with further tendering for 2GW of ground-mounted PV, side by side with rooftop-specific exercises and PV auctions to repower a site holding its oldest nuclear plant.

The powering-up of O’MEGA 1 sees Europe press on in the global race of floating solar, a segment on the rise after reaching the 1.1GW installed capacity threshold last September.

So far this year, projects have made progress in Singapore (50MW), Thailand (45MW), South Korea (25MW), Malawi (20MW) Portugal (4MW), the Seychelles (3.5-4MW) and Brazil (2.5MW).

One of the latest additions is Vietnam’s reportedly first floating project, a 47.5MW scheme a subsidiary of national utility EVN will develop with support from development financiers.

The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in Europe and beyond will take centre stage at Solar Media's Solar Finance & Investment Europe (London, 5-6 February) and Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 31 March-1 April 2020).

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