France to install solar-plus-storage on overseas territories with 50MW tender

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France's government has launched a tender for 50MW of projects combining solar power with energy storage systems on Corsica and its overseas islands territories.

The Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal, issued the call for proposals on Thursday, including France’s Overseas Departments and Territories (DOM), the various non-European regions under French rule. 

The tender calls for 25MW of rooftop solar and 25MW of ground mount installations or carports. These are to be deployed with storage systems attached and designed specifically for use in island territories, to maximise on-site self-consumption of solar and to limit the burden of demand on grid networks. 

Royal said the tender would support such projects that allow for greater integration of renewables by smoothing variable output, stipulating that developers must commit to facilitate this greater integration as well as to ensuring greater “energy autonomy” for the regions where they are based. Projects must be sized over 100kWp output to be considered.

The news follows the January announcement of a project on the French-controlled island of La Reunion, where a 9MWp PV power plant is being connected to a 9MWh containerised battery solution provided by Saft.

There have been numerous projects in other island territories, with more to come, where remote communities, often at the mercy of expensively imported and polluting fossil fuels, are seeking to replace the energy generated by burning diesel, oil or coal, with PV-plus-storage. A project on the tiny Portuguese island of Graciosa is currently underway which will integrate 1MW of solar and 4.5MW of wind power to networks on the island, which has a population of just 5,000 inhabitants.

The drivers for installing solar in combination with storage on islands or other areas where communities are in remote locations away from grid networks such as mining operations in deserts are economic as well as environmental. It has been seen already in Australia, for instance, that replacing diesel generation at mining operations where it is used either as backup, so-called spinning reserve, or even as the main power source, is considered to be an attractive business opportunity.  

In March, PV Tech Storage was given access to a workshop session held by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on developing a technology roadmap for energy storage. At the event, which put technical experts and consultants, delegates representing a number of nations including Pacific Islands already at risk from severe flooding and private companies such as Lockheed Martin together to discuss the potential for expanding electricity storage as one of a number of means to enabling increased renewable energy deployment. 

While acknowledging that electricity storage is neither a ’silver bullet’ or ‘Holy Grail’ which could allow higher percentages of renewable generation in the global energy mix, the roadmap sets out a number of areas in which it can already play a role as well as encouraging developmental work into other areas, such as in aiding grid stability for the decentralised networks of the future. 

The report’s authors and contributors highlighted island and off-grid applications as one of a few select areas where energy storage already offers a viable solution to energy autonomy and environmental concerns, as well as providing an immediate economic opportunity. Again, this is due to the competitive economics of solar and storage, compared to importing fossil fuels or building huge amounts of new transmission and distribution infrastructure. The IRENA document is scheduled for publication in the second week of June.  

France’s latest tender calls for interested parties to prove their projects will make positive contributions to the environment and innovation, as well as demonstrating cost-competitiveness. Would-be developers are requested to submit their applications for the tender by the 20 November 2015, with the winning applications to be decided in spring next year. 

After a lukewarm recent past, France, traditionally a nuclear power-fuelled corner of Europe, appears to be mustering up enthusiasm for renewable energy. The country launched a 400MW tender for PV projects over 250kW capacity in November 2014, and in March this year launched a fresh 120MW tender for solar power projects of between 100kW and 250kW.

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