Image credit: Enfinity
They might not quite match the Google-supported 392MW solar thermal project in Nevada, but 2 projects launched in France look set to eclipse many other European utility-scale solar projects, like this 1MW solar farm in England. Spanning a joint surface area of 89 acres, and generating up to 18.2MW combined, two solar farms in Les Mées, France, are part of a broader push in the region that will see panels covering 200 hectares and producing around 100MW by the end of 2011.
The Les Mées solar farm project is the largest yet created by renewable energy firm Enfinity, and it is not just notable for its size. The project was also implemented without the use of concrete foundations, and was specifically designed to still allow grazing by sheep - solar double-cropping taken to the extreme.
The projects' creators claim that the location is also a huge advantage in terms of energy output:
The solar power stations were installed on the Puimichel plateau (municipality of Les Mées) - one of the most favourable areas of France for solar exposure, yielding up to 1,556 kWh/m² annually. In addition the sites' altitude of 800 metres ensures ideal ventilation, which in turn guarantees an optimal output of 10 to 15% above average.
The Guardian has some stunning photography of the Les Mées solar farms, and tells us that this project is one of a number of arrays on the plateau that will eventually grow to 100MW in capacity by the end of the year.
Maybe the solar century really is becoming a reality.