Agrivoltaisme, a legal framework to avoid excesses

Should photovoltaic panels be installed on cultivated fields in the name of the development of renewable energies? This is the thorny question on which the senators are considering, Thursday, October 20, through a bill giving for the first time a legal framework for agrivoltaism.

“The objective is to avoid doing anything and not to weaken food sovereignty in the name of energy sovereignty. As Ademe says (Environment and Energy Management Agency, Editor’s note)photovoltaic installations must first be used to maintain and develop agricultural activity”, estimates Franck Menonville, senator of the Meuse and rapporteur of the text. Consisting of a single article, it has already been adopted unanimously by the Commission for Economic Affairs, which is not often the case.

Long confined to experimental projects, particularly in market gardening, agrivoltaism is developing rapidly, even if its dimension remains marginal. “ This responds to the new problems of farmers, faced with increasingly frequent climatic hazards. says Antoine Nogier, president of the France Agrivoltaisme association and founder of the Sun’Agri company.

An asset for agricultural practices

The panels make it possible both to limit excess solar radiation, to reduce the risk of frost, to protect against hail, but also to optimize irrigation, because there is less evaporation. Sun’Agri has just installed 2.7 hectares of “agrivoltaic shutters” nearly six meters high on a field of pear trees, near Perpignan.

The Breton Okwind has created rotating shade structures, resembling large sunflowers, with a surface area of ​​120 m2 and 7 m masts. “They bring shade to farms while reducing farmers’ energy bills”explains Louis Maurice, the company’s founder.

The sector is teeming with innovations. The TSE from Nice has thus developed a system of panels secured together by cables. “We were inspired by what is done for cable cars and chairlifts. The posts are widely spaced, so there is little footprint. It is perfect for large crops»underlines its CEO Mathieu Debonnet, who has just inaugurated “the largest agricultural canopy in France”on five hectares, in Haute-Saône.

Strong pressure on land

But on the ground, not everything is going well. Jean-Pierre Decool, the senator who will defend the bill, also explains “having been alerted by farmers who were alarmed by the artificialization of soils and fearing the development of conflicts of use”. He also points to the proliferation of “alibi projects” who, to obtain their planning permission, put forward an agricultural vocation that they do not respect.

In order to reach the 44 GW of photovoltaic capacities installed in 2028 (15 today), as provided for by the multiannual energy programming law (PPE), it will be necessary to find at least 30,000 hectares. Even by mobilizing all the roofs, industrial wastelands, roadsides and car parks, it is not sure that this is enough.

As a result, everyone has their own method of finding land. ” It’s the Wild Westsays Antoine Nogier. We are witnessing a new gold rush where everyone thinks they have found the mine. Solar developers try to convince farmers with ever bigger checks. »

Concerns of agricultural unions

The craziest figures circulate. In some areas, the bar of €10,000 annual rent per hectare has been crossed. To be compared to the 100 to 150 € received by the farmer when the use is agricultural.

This situation worries the unions. In September, the Confédération paysanne sent an open letter to the President of the Republic to alert him to “the dangers of agrivoltaism, a marketing concept that aims to legitimize land and financial opportunism”. Two days later, the Young Farmers called for a moratorium until a clear framework had been set.

“Given the agricultural pensions, it is often difficult not to give in to the sirens », Recognizes for his part Olivier Dauger, the president of the regional chamber of agriculture of Hauts-de-France, in charge of energy issues at the FNSEA.

Divergence in government

Within the government, the positions also diverge, depending on whether one is on the line of farmers or large energy companies, who plead to be able to install panels on agricultural land with low yields. Organized at the beginning of the week, an interministerial meeting did not make it possible to decide. “There is a very great excitement. The government is afraid of ending up with a problem of social acceptability, as with wind power,” notes an actor of the file.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Energy Transition says it is ready to include the text in its bill on the acceleration of renewables, the discussion of which starts in the Senate at the beginning of November. But the amendments could be numerous.


Qatar inaugurates a gigantic solar power plant

Qatar, one of the largest producers of liquefied natural gas in the world, has inaugurated its first solar power plant, in partnership notably with TotalEnergies. This solar farm of more than 1.8 million solar panels extends over 10 km2. It has a capacity of 800 megawatts and aims to cover 10% of the country’s electricity consumption.

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