Ground mounted brownfield solar PV site

Locogen SAS has won planning permission for a 5MW brownfield solar farm in Saint-Fraimbault-de Prières, near Mayenne, north-western France. The local authority, the local councillors and the local community have agreed to the proposal with no objection.

The proposed solar farm is sited on a former landfill site, which is unsuitable to be farmed or built upon. French authorities may favour greenfield land for agriculture and construction, but brownfield sites (including landfill sites) are encouraged as locations for solar farms. French national planning policies and financial support mechanisms encourage such development and the proposed brownfield solar farm is a great example of how to utilise otherwise unproductive land. The nature of such land hasn’t been without its challenges. But Locogen, working alongside the Suez Group, who own and manage the site, helped to create a solar farm design which is compatible with SUEZ’s current activities on the site.

The site could potentially suffer from contaminated soil, if the rain penetrates the waste beneath, which resulted in an inability to drill into the soil. Whilst this would be an issue for construction or agriculture, a solar farm benefits from being lightweight; therefore, the only additional consideration was the requirement to place concrete slabs between the soil and the panels to avoid risk of contamination.

The waste beneath the soil also creates biogas. This is currently collected and feeds a small generator, which extracts the biogas to power a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine to generate renewable electricity for the local grid.

5.5GWh of renewable electricity from Saint-Fraimbault-de Prières brownfield solar farm

These issues dealt with, the electricity generation from the solar farm is expected to be around 5.5GWh per year - enough to power approximately over 1,000 houses (heating excluded). That's more than the population living in Saint-Fraimbault-de prières. The electricity generated will be sold on the wholesale market via the local grid network and the commune will benefit from the taxes on the earnings of the solar farm.

On top of this, the owners of the landfill site will gain additional land maintenance and security from the solar farm's contribution, and it will no doubt improve the reputation of the landfill site by repurposing the land and producing electricity. ​

Locogen SAS President, Cedric Gerbier, says:

“We believe this is the first site of many more to come, as France is strongly committed to having 4x the current installed base of solar capacity by 2028. It makes complete sense to do that with otherwise worthless, unproductive brownfield land.”

Although the project has reached a significant milestone in dealing with land issues and the Local Authority's approval, the project still needs to win the CfD-style generation auction, to secure a viable tariff. The solar farm is planned to start generating in early 2020.

Nonetheless, the project has given this former landfill the chance to have a new lease of life, while generating more affordable green electricity to contribute to France’s energy transition plan. With the cost of land rising and cost of PV reducing, utilising brownfield sites for solar farms is perhaps sometihing we in the UK could capitalise on in future.

Vist Locogen SAS here.