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

Five things you need to know about Europe's largest urban solar power plant

Entering service at the end of 2021, the Labarde solar power plant in Bordeaux was finally inaugurated on Thursday. Located on avenue de Labarde, opposite the Matmut Atlantique stadium, it is almost invisible from the road. It is, however, to date 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 Labarde solar power plant extends over 1.2 km by 500 meters, or approximately 60 hectares. This is the equivalent of five times the Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux or 85 football pitches.

The Labarde solar power plant is located north of Bordeaux, opposite the Matmut Atlantique stadium – Mickaël Bosredon / 20Minutes

135,000 solar panels

The 135,000 solar panels combine a power of 59 MWp, the equivalent of the annual consumption excluding heating of 70,000 people, bearing in mind however that solar energy is intermittent. “It’s the panel that converts light energy into electricity, recalls Théo Bon, solar project manager at JP Energie Environnement (JPee), builder and operator of the plant. What matters is therefore the luminosity, which varies depending on the day. The months of greatest production are from May until the end of summer, with a difference in production that varies from one to ten between winter and summer. Here, all the electricity is injected into the network, which will then distribute it to the places of consumption, without going through storage means. »

The panels come from First Solar, an American supplier that manufactures in the United States, Malaysia and Vietnam. “This choice was made for budgetary reasons, knowing that the panels represent 40 to 45% of the plant’s investment, but also because these panels have the best carbon footprint on the market, with an energy return rate [qui compense les CO2 utiles pour le produire] six months, compared to two years for a standard panel,” assures Xavier Nass, general manager of JPee.

On an old landfill

One of the particularities of the Labarde plant is that it was built on the former Bordeaux Métropole landfill, along the Garonne. This was operated from 1974 to 1984 to receive household waste from 27 municipalities, then from 2004 to 2009 it was rehabilitated to seal off the two to three million m3 of waste found there, using in particular with an impermeable membrane.

No construction is authorized there, but in 2015 JPee contacted Bordeaux Métropole to propose an innovative and secure method, literally allowing this photovoltaic plant to be placed on the landfill. The building permit was issued in 2018. It therefore took more than four years to bring it out of the ground, with two and a half years of construction until the end of 2021, knowing that the plant was commissioned in several sections. from February 2021.

It should also be noted that the maintenance of the site’s green spaces is provided by a herd of 150 sheep and five goats.

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 amount of the total investment for this infrastructure, divided between a bank debt of 48 million euros and 12 million euros of equity, increased to 51% by JPee and 49% by the 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, owner of the land. “In terms of rents and taxation, we donate almost 400,000 euros per year to communities,” underlines Xavier Nass. The contract with the city is for 35 years, which corresponds to the lifespan of the solar panels. “After 35 years, either we dismantle the plant, or we start a new project, explains the general manager. The panels will be recycled, up to 90% since it is mainly glass and semiconductor materials. »

What future for solar power plants?

Sobriety and autonomy, the question of energy supply has become essential, with the challenges of global warming and international instability. The Labarde plant, by producing 75,500 MWh per year, would avoid the release of 3,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. But solar power plant projects sometimes pose problems of acceptability, especially when they eat away at natural space. “We are developing our projects mainly on non-constructible, non-agricultural land, such as old landfills or quarries, assures Xavier Nass. But to accelerate the development plan for renewable energies by 2050, we will necessarily need to go into other fields, and what we are trying to develop is agrivoltaism, which combines agricultural production and electricity production. »