In France, solar just got a huge boost from new legislation approved through the Senate this week that will require all parking lots with spaces for at least 80 vehicles – both existing and new – to be covered by solar panels.
The new provisions are part of French president Emmanuel Macron’s large-scale plan to heavily invest in renewables, which aims to multiply by 10 the amount of solar energy produced in the country, and to double the power from land-based wind farms.
Starting July 1, 2023, smaller carparks that have between 80 and 400 spaces will have five years to be in compliance with the new measures. Carparks with more than 400 spaces have a shorter timeline: They will need to comply with the new measures within three years of this date, and at least half of the surface area of the parking lot will need to be covered in solar panels.
According to the government, this plan, which particularly targets large parking areas around commercial centers and train stations, could generate up to 11 gigawatts, which is the equivalent of 10 nuclear reactors, powering millions of homes. Public Sénat writes that stipulations were put into place excluding parking lots for trucks carrying heavy goods or parking areas in historic or protected areas, to avoid “distorting” them, according to an amendment to the bill. While it’s unclear, future iterations of the bill will likely detail parking lots that would be excluded, in addition to how this plan will be funded and what the penalties would be for lack of compliance.
Other measures on the table include building large solar farms on vacant land found alongside highways and railways, as well as on agricultural lands where feasible. Macron has said that any bill passed would need to guarantee money that ensures local communities directly benefit from the energy shift.
France’s national rail service SNCF also plans to install some 190,000 square meters of solar panels in 156 stations throughout the country by 2025 and 1.1 million square meters by 2030, all with the aim to reduce energy consumption by 25%.
The government also plans to build around 50 additional wind farms likes the one offshore Saint-Nazaire by 2050 in France. Measures are in place to reduce delays in building offshore wind farms from 10-12 years down to six years, and large solar farms from six years to three years.
This summer, the French government solidified two zones for offshore wind farms off the coast of the Atlantic following a massive public debate involving 15,000 participants, with environmental protection being the biggest concern.
The first wind farm is planned to be sited off the island of Oléron, more than 35 km off the coast of La Rochelle, with a capacity of around 1,000 MW. The second wind farm will likely be located farther out at sea, with both wind farms together producing enough electricity for 1.6 million people.
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