Utility-SunPower partnership’s 12MW project inaugurated by French president

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President François Hollande inaugurated a 12MW solar farm in central France last week which uses PV panels assembled domestically by SunPower.

The dedication for the Roc Du Doun plant in Gros-Chastang took place last Friday. The plant was developed by a subsidiary of the utility Engie, which until earlier this year was known as GDF Suez.

SunPower manufactured the high efficiency panels used on the plant at its French facility in Toulouse, about 300km further south of the Roc Du Doun project. The vertically integrated US PV manufacturer and solar energy services provider struck a deal with Engie to supply 41MW of panels in total to the utility. This is spread across four projects, with Roc Du Doun the last to be completed with the others also already generating power.

The newest plant will generate around 16,800,000kWh of power annually. The previously completed four are: two 12MW plants in Aquitaine and in Auvergne, a 5MW plant in Provence-Alps-Cote D’Azur and a 4MW project on Corsica.

Under the stewardship of Hollande and his environment and energy minister Segolene Royal – officially titled minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy – France has targeted a revival of its PV sector and a renewal of efforts to tackle pollution and climate change.

This has so far included the launch of tenders for various scales of PV projects, including a 400MW tender put out in September last year. This was doubled to 800MW this summer. The 41MW of Engie projects to which SunPower supplied panels was part of this tender process, developed by Engie subsidiary La Compagnie du Vent. SunPower and La Compagnie du Vent have been in partnership since 2012.

Shortly ahead of that auction taking place, Royal confirmed nuclear capacity in the state energy operator’s hands would remain capped at today’s levels. Royal said at the time that France’s “energy mix had to progress”.

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