On Friday the 21st of October, on a clear morning in the beautiful commune of Piolenc, in the department of Vaucluse in southern France, people gathered to witness the inauguration of Akuo Energy’s new 17 MW floating solar power plant. Situated on a lake in a former quarry, the O’MEGA1 project is the largest of its kind in Europe, comprised of 47,000 solar modules using the Hydrelio technology developed by the French floating PV specialist Ciel & Terre. The modules are made from recyclable high-density polyethylene, built to withstand winds up to 210 km/h.
The floating plant has been in development since 2014, with Akuo working in tandem with the quarry operators to ensure a smooth transition. Spread across 17 hectares, the annual production of the plant will provide 100% renewable energy to 4,373 households, saving at least 1,093 tonnes of CO2 every year.
This project is pioneering in many regards. As well as being the first floating solar plant in France and the largest in Europe, the financing of O’MEGA1 is also innovative. The project was partly financed through crowdsourcing, where interested individuals could help to bankroll the large-scale plant, supplementing investment from Natixis Energéco. Further, the municipality of Piolenc itself chose to invest, meaning that the community is set to benefit from the project’s success. This kind of symbiotic relationship between a PV developer and local community could represent a sustainable business model moving forward.
The plant is the latest addition to Akuo’s renewables portfolio of nearly 1 GW, and joins a global arsenal of floating solar plants; as of September 2018, the worldwide capacity of floating solar was 1.1 GW. The market potential for floating PV is immense, with a recent study from the World Bank showing that if only 1% of artificial reservoir surfaces were used, the global capacity for floating solar would amount to 400 GW. The report details the terawatt-scale opportunity for floating solar projects, which is only impeded by a fear from investors about the cost and reliability of the technology. The development and innovation of floating solar plants requires future-thinking companies such as Akuo to lead the transition.
Eric Scotto, Chairman and Co-founder of Akuo, reported: “Today, as well as inaugurating Europe’s largest floating solar plant, we are showing that fighting climate change requires a collective effort. With my fellow independent producers and green electricity supplier Plüm, we are playing an integral role by enabling every citizen who opts for green electricity of controlled origin to become a genuine player in the energy transition, by thus supporting the development of renewable energy in our country. It is now up to citizens to choose their energy mix. Producers, suppliers, citizens, join us: our success depends on the strength of our community!”
Photo: Akuo Energy, O’MEGA1