Image credit: Gestamp Solar
What constitutes a truly ambitious project in the solar energy sector seems to be changing almost daily right now. No sooner do I start enthusing about Toyota's 4.1MW solar array, or an old mine turned 1.4MW solar power plant (both are admittedly impressive for rainy England), than I come across a press release I missed a few weeks back for a 60MW solar project that will cover parking and car delivery areas at numerous Renault facilities in France. True, it might not be the largest array in the world, but it is the largest in France, and the largest in the automotive sector—and as such it stands to generate much more than just electricity for the French automaker. Mike already posted a fascinating interview with Renault/Nissan CEO and electric car champion Carlos Ghosn about his companies' plans to become world leaders in electric vehicles—and the news that Renault is now developing 60MW of solar power at all six of its manufacturing facilities in France is only likely to cement that position.
It's tempting to make straight comparisons between the cost of solar and the cost of buying coal, nuclear or gas powered energy from the grid, but the PR and marketing value—not to mention the insurance against energy price volatility—should not be underestimated, especially for early adopters. Much like my locally-owned car care center that installed solar, Renault is making a huge statement with this commitment to clean energy. And it won't go unnoticed.
This, from solar developer Gestamp Solar, gives a little more insight into the scope of the project:
The solar panels will cover the areas corresponding to the delivery and dispatch of the plants at Douai, Maubeuge, Flins Batilly and Sandouville as well as the staff car parkings in Cléon and Maubeuge. These Installed panels allow the reduction of 30,000 tons of CO2 each year and produce an output of 60 MW, which is equivalent to the total annual electricity consumption of more than 15,000 people.
Crucially, unlike the Toyota array in England, the solar panels will be mounted on car parking structures in delivery, dispatch and staff parking areas—thus avoiding the use of additional land, and providing the added utility of protecting vehicles from the elements. (Presumably, in the case of staff parking, there should also be a minor benefit in keeping cars cool and reducing the need for AC.)
It's almost tempting to get a little tired of the "world's largest this or that" press releases coming from the solar industry right now, until I start reflecting on the scale of the challenge ahead of us. If a 100% renewable world is truly possible, then we need a solar, wind, efficiency and clean energy arms race like we have never seen before. Here's hoping one of Renault's competitors takes this as a challenge to do even more.
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