Five things to know about Europe’s largest urban solar power plant

The Labarde solar plant in Bordeaux, commissioned at the end of 2021, was finally opened on Thursday. Located on Avenue de Labard, opposite the Matmouth Atlantic Stadium, it is almost invisible from the road. However, today it is the largest solar power plant in an urban environment in Europe. 20 minutes gives you five things to know about this site.

Five times the size of quincunxes

The Labard solar power plant extends 1.2 km by 500 meters, or approximately 60 hectares. This is five times the area of ​​Kenkons in Bordeaux or 85 football fields.

The solar power plant Labard is located north of Bordeaux, opposite the Matmouth Atlantique stadium – Mikael Beausredon / 20 minutes

135,000 solar panels

135,000 solar panels combine a capacity of 59 MW, which is equivalent to the annual consumption without heating of 70,000 people, given, however, that solar energy is intermittent. “It’s the panel that converts light energy into electricity,” recalls Theo Bohn, solar project manager at JP Energie Environment (JPee), builder and power plant operator. Therefore, brightness is important, which varies depending on the day. The most productive months are from May to the end of summer, with a productivity difference of one to ten between winter and summer. Here, all electricity is introduced into the network, which then distributes it to the places of consumption, bypassing the storage facilities. »

The panels are supplied by First Solar, an American supplier that produces electricity in the US, Malaysia and Vietnam. “This choice was made for budgetary reasons, knowing that panels account for 40 to 45% of the plant’s investment, and also because these panels have the best carbon footprint on the market with an energy return ratio. [qui compense les CO2 utiles pour le produire] six months compared to two years for a standard panel,” says Xavier Nass, general manager of JPee.

In the old landfill

One of the features of the Labarde plant is that it was built on the former landfill site of the Bordeaux Métropole, along the Garonne. It was operated from 1974 to 1984 to receive household waste from 27 municipalities, then from 2004 to 2009 it was rehabilitated to contain the two to three million m3 of waste found there, using, inter alia, an impermeable membrane.

No construction is allowed there, but in 2015 JPee contacted Bordeaux Métropole to come up with an innovative and safe method to literally put this photovoltaic plant in a landfill. The building permit was issued in 2018. Therefore, it took more than four years to get it out of the ground, and the construction took two and a half years until the end of 2021, knowing that the plant was commissioned in several sections from February 2021 .

It should also be noted that a herd of 150 sheep and five goats provides for the maintenance of the green spaces of the site.

A herd of 150 sheep maintains the plant's green spaces.
A herd of 150 sheep maintains the plant’s green spaces – JPee

60 million euros

This is the sum of the total investment in this infrastructure, divided between €48 million in bank debt and €12 million in equity, increased to 51% by JPee and 49% by Banque des Territoires. JPee benefits from an electricity purchase price of 60 euros per megawatt hour, but in return pays rent to the city of Bordeaux, the owner of the land. “In terms of rent and taxes, we donate almost 400,000 euros a year to communities,” emphasizes Xavier Nass. The contract with the city is for 35 years, which corresponds to the lifetime of the solar panels. “After 35 years, we either dismantle the plant or start a new project,” explains the CEO. The panels will be recycled, up to 90%, as they are mainly glass and semiconductor materials. »

What is the future of solar power plants?

Sobriety and autonomy, the issue of energy supply has become important, given the problems of global warming and international instability. The Labard plant, with a capacity of 75,500 MWh per year, will avoid 3,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. But solar power projects sometimes raise acceptability issues, especially when they eat away at natural space. “We develop our projects mainly on undeveloped, non-agricultural land, such as old landfills or quarries,” says Xavier Nass. But to accelerate the renewable energy development plan by 2050, we will definitely need to look into other areas, and what we are trying to develop is agrovoltaism, combining agricultural production and electricity production. »