02.05.2019 | Urbasolar develops photovoltaic systems since 2006

The solar power business

The French company Urbasolar plans, constructs and operates photovoltaic plants. The company has become an 100 % Axpo subsidiary. In turn, Axpo has access to the profitable growth market with solar energy. Urbasolar counts 160 employees and is at home in the solar power business.

The company is one of the leaders in the French solar energy industry. The PV developer was founded in 2006 by Arnaud Mine (currently Chairman of the Board) and Stéphanie Andrieu (currently CEO). To date, he has developed and built 457 PV systems with an output of 350 MW and has a development pipeline of more than 1000 MW. The company is headquartered in Montpellier in southern France and employs 160 people. Other locations include Toulouse, Aix, Nantes, Bordeaux, Vichy, Paris and La Réunion.

The Urbasolar management team with Arnaud Mine and Stéphanie Andrieu (3rd row from the top)
PV as a growth market

In recent years, technological advances, decreasing system costs, as well as governmental subsidies have resulted in a strong increase of installed PV capacities in Europe and worldwide. The competitiveness and marketability of photovoltaics in comparison to other types of power production will increase and experts expect PV global growth to remain strong in the future.

The PV market can be structured in three sub-areas: Small plants (residential), large rooftop plants (commercial & industrial) as well as open space plants (utility scale).

Where Urbasolar is active

Urbasolar plans, constructs and operates photovoltaic systems. The majority of this business is realised in France. However, individual PV projects outside France are esepecially in the French overseas countys. Urbasolar covers the following four areas:

  • Open space plants: The company is a pioneer in this segment and has built numerous plants that are considered technological showcase projects. Plants are also built in old stone quarries, contaminated areas or landfills, or on old car racing circuits.

  • Solar panels over parking spaces: The plants not only generate power, they also provide shade over parking spaces. Thanks to its extensive know-how as a general contractor, Urbasolar is a recognised market leader in this area.

  • On rooftops: Urbasolar has installed photovoltaic plants on over 2 million square metres of roof surfaces on industrial, business and other buildings.

  • On greenhouses: Urbasolar has set an industry benchmark by building PV plants on greenhouses covering dozens of hectares. With the development of innovative, efficient instruments for agriculture, the group supports the implementation of solutions to improve operation competitiveness under consideration of the respective agricultural project and the environment.

In addition to development and construction, Urbasolar's business includes services (maintenance and repair) as well as asset management services, mainly for PV plant buyers. Customers include public sector companies (post office) and industry (Airbus), logistics (Lidl), real estate (Bouygues) or retailers (Carrefour).

Open spac plant at Faux

Rooftop plant on a Airbus building

Covered park deck with solar panels

Greenhouse with solar panels

Urbasolar's position

The PV developer is also in a good position financially. In the last financial year (ending on 30 April 2018) the company generated revenues of 104 million Euros. This represents a growth rate of 16 per cent as compared to the previous year. The financial result also increased with adjusted EBITDA amounting to 25 million Euros, which is a plus of 23 per cent.

With recurring success at individual bidder auctions and recently concluded international contracts, Urbasolar has secured an order pipeline of 320 MW that will be installed by mid-2020. Thanks to newly developed projects, Urbasolar expects to achieve a solar plant portfolio with a capacity of 1 GW by the year 2022.

Integration light

Urbasolar - similar to the Axpo wind power subsidiary Volkswind – will be operated as a subsidiary company. To this end, the new subsidiary will have broad organisational independence. "This model has proven successful," says Christoph Sutter, Head of New Energies at Axpo. "It supports essential proximity to customers and flexibility in order to be successful on the market in the future."

More information about Urbasolar is available on the website or in this video (French only):

Photovoltaics in France

France has over 8.2 GWp of installed PV peak capacity and is the fourth-largest PV market in Europe, behind Germany, Italy and Great Britain. However, with 10.2 TWh, the proportion of PV power in total production is only 1.9 per cent.

Up until the year 2020, France intends to boost the proportion of renewable energies to 23 per cent. Since it appears unlikely that this goal will be achieved, the French government is trying to push these energies with subsidy programmes. In bi-annual auctions, the money is awarded to PV developers that require the least financial support (price competition). This model is expected to create a market growth of 12.3 GWp over the next five years.

The French PV developer market is still very fragmented. However, consolidation has been taking place in recent years. Major players such as Engie, Electricité de France (EDF) and Total are emerging at the forefront. They are followed by various mid-sized players. The 30 largest developers are responsible for 72 per cent of the installed solar capacity. At the last four auctions (status August 2018) Engie was awarded a peak capacity volume of 550 MWp for the construction of PV plants, followed by Urbasolar with 194 MWp and Total with 186 MWp. In addition, major companies such as the Paris airport or the French national railway SNCF intend to finance solar projects by means of power purchase agreements. Axpo is already active and successful in this area.

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