13.03.2020 | 13,888 floating solar panels

Urbasolar is building a 5-MWp solar plant near Toulouse

Solar panels will soon be able to float at Axpo. Urbasolar, our French subsidiary, is building a solar plant on an artificial lake in an old gravel pit near the city of Toulouse. Thanks to an output of 5 MWp, it will generate about 6 GWh of electricity per year. A business with potential.

Axpo’s subsidiary, Urbasolar, is venturing out onto the water. The company has begun with the construction of the first floating solar power plant in France. The plant is located in the town of Peyssies, about 45 kilometres southwest of Toulouse in Occitania. The artificial lake is situated in a former gravel pit in Peyssies. The quarry was no longer used for gravel mining and flooded.

The floating solar park is being built here in Peyssies

The PV system on the lake will comprise a total of 13,888 solar modules with a capacity of 360 Wp each. This corresponds to a total output of about 5MWp. The plant will produce approx. 6 GWh of electricity per year, which is sufficient to supply nearly 1300 households.

Respect for the environment

The photovoltaic panels will be installed on floating pontoons anchored in the artificial lake on a surface of 5 hectares. The advantage here is that the plant does not use any agricultural or industrial land, which is often a point of contention regarding solar power plants in France. In addition, local residents can participate in the construction of the plant – as a part of the budget is being financed with crowd-funding in the region.

The lake today (image above) and in the future with the solar plant

Urbasolar had to submit a comprehensive environmental impact assessment proving that the floating photovoltaic system will not pose any lasting damage to the plant and animal life in the lake. The technology has also been used for the largest floating solar plant in France that was opened in the Vaucluse region of Southern France in 2019. The experience acquired there indicates that solar plants reduce the light volume and temperature of the water, but, at the same time, limit water evaporation and the growth of algae.

A plant with potential

The plant in Peyssies is not the only one of its kind. Urbasolar has two similar projects in the pipeline in the department of Haute-Garonne. The potential of using artificial lakes in France is quite large. According to an estimate, a total capacity of 10,000 MW could be installed using all the artificial lakes, hydropower pools and other non-protected waters located near grid connections.

These types of plants can help achieve the French government's ambitious target for solar energy – doubling existing solar capacities by 2023 and a fivefold increase by 2030. 

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