The photovoltaic plant would be located in the town of Saucats in Gironde.
PASCAL / SIPA POCHARD
Engie et Neoen is carrying out a project for a gigantic solar park in a forest town of Gironde.
It would suppose the clearing of 1,000 hectares of pines cultivated by a group of silviculturalists.
The national public debate commission will organize a consultation on this file during the first half of 2021.
It also provides for the production of hydrogen, the installation of a data center and agrivoltaism.
A sea of photovoltaic panels in place of maritime pines, this is part of the Horizéo project, envisaged by Engie and Neoen over 1,000 hectares, in Saucats in the Gironde.
"This plot is located to the west of the town which covers a total of 8,921 hectares or 90% of intramural Paris," points out Bruno Clément, mayor of Saucats, who gave an agreement in principle to the project.
And 6,900 hectares of the town are covered with forest so there would remain 5,900 if the project is carried out, leaving two thirds of the territory still covered by pine trees.
The coveted lands belong to a forestry group which would rent them out if the Horizéo program is carried out.
A debate supervised by the national commission for public debate is planned on this major project, in the first half of 2021.
"An industrial project for the forest"
If the choice fell on the forest commune of Saucats, it is first of all because an RTE transformer station is installed near the site and "offers a rare capacity in New Aquitaine or even in France for fuel injection. 'such a power of renewable energies [1 Gigawatt] ”, points out Mathieu le Grelle, spokesperson for Engie and Neoen.
“You have to keep in mind that the Landes forest is for economic purposes,” he adds.
We come to borrow a biological cycle of the production of its pines but they are cut regularly and in this case every 30 years.
Sepanso, which brings together environmental associations, is alarmed by the scale of the project.
“It's unreasonable, it's an industrial project for the forest.
They are interested in the site because it is flat and land prices are low, ”reacts Philippe Barbedienne, Aquitaine director of Sepanso.
The federation has planned to participate in the consultation but does not hide its mistrust vis-à-vis Horizéo.
"Sepanso is favorable to renewable energies but it is necessary to develop them on already artificialized grounds, estimates its director.
It is a project of financial speculation.
If it were virtuous, it would be done on land already artificialized, such as roofs or parking lots ”.
"We do not artificialize the soil, we go from wood to meadow, under the panels there will remain biodiversity", assures Mathieu Le Grelle.
What worries the mayor of Saucats more are the consequences of cutting the pines on the collection of rainwater.
Hydrological studies will be carried out to verify that there is no risk of flooding in the plains.
If the project leaders obtain a clearing authorization, they will be subject to reforestation obligations.
“We can assume that for a cut pine, we would be required to replant two trees, or 2,000 hectares to be replanted, estimates Mathieu Le Grelle.
Plantings would then take place on plots damaged by storms or disease and which no longer sequester carbon ”.
This will undoubtedly be a major issue in the debate to be conducted with stakeholders in the forestry sector and environmental protection associations, who are very critical of compensatory measures.
“Compensation is bogus, loose Philippe Barbedienne.
It does not mean creating forests where there are none, but financing projects that are already being planted.
The owners who cut are obliged to reforest, and the compensation simply provides for subsidizing them ”.
A total budget of one billion euros
The energy produced by the solar park will be consumed locally by “the innovative units that are the data center and the electrolyser [production of hydrogen].
Most of it will be reinjected into the network, ”explains Mathieu Le Grelle.
The platform is based on a model of over-the-counter sales contracts to companies, in demand for a green electricity supply.
On 10 to 25 hectares, the project also plans to use solar energy for agriculture.
“The agricultural part is very important.
There will be a mixed use of the ground with raised and mobile panels [agrivoltaism] which will allow organic farming in a short circuit to supply our school canteens, which serve 400 meals a day ”, specifies the mayor of Saucats.
“There are also greenhouse projects that could be powered by the fatal heat from the data center,” adds Mathieu Le Grelle.
Our dossier on solar energy
"It is a relevant project because it offers a capacity for injection and production of renewable energies at an extremely competitive price without a support mechanism from the State and in that, it is an extraordinary step forward to help accelerate the energy transition ”, promises the spokesperson for Engie and Neoen.
An estimated budget of one billion euros has been established for the entire project in its various aspects.
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