Car parks, a valuable resource for accelerating solar energy in France?

For the Evreux hospital center, it’s done. Over the past two weeks, it has been equipped with 4,400 photovoltaic panels which will generate around 25% of the electricity consumed by the hospital. Admittedly, most are installed on the ground, in desert sites. But the other one, about 25%, is the canopy covering the staff car park,” explained Edouard Roblot, director of low-carbon buildings at Idex, a company specializing in renewable energy that is running the project.

This photovoltaic carport will expand in the coming years. The “renewable energy acceleration” bill, which is to be voted on Tuesday in the Assembly, plans to make it mandatory for outdoor car parking of more than 1,500m² in at least half of the area. First from the shopping center. Edouard Roblot is also adding hospitals, factories, corporate headquarters, or even carpooling areas and relay parking lots growing on the outskirts of big cities. They reached 1500 m² too quickly.

Another size that can move?

Car parks with an area of ​​more than 10,000 m² will have until July 1, 2026 to comply if the smaller one is two years older. After this deadline, the owner will be fined up to 40,000 euros per year. Everything is still conditionally written while the bill is still under discussion and this step has progressed a lot. Initially, the government, for example, set a parking area threshold of 2,500 m². Too ambitious for ecologists who want to bring it down to 250m². In the end, a compromise was found around 1,500 m² which should no longer be transferred, but only apply to the National Assembly, said Jules Nyssen, president of the Renewable Energies Union (SER). On this point, the Senate’s proposals differed markedly. It is up to the Joint Joint Committee (CMP), made up of deputies and senators, to find a compromise. He will attack the text starting January 16th.

In any case, neither Jules Nyssen nor Edouard Roblot imagined the move disappearing. It has to be said that installing a photovoltaic carport in a parking lot ticks a lot of boxes. “We know how to do it, the technology is mature, Edouard Roblot started. Solarization of car parks can be done in eighteen months, very fast. “It’s not as complex as installing solar power on the roof of a residential building, where the challenges can be overwhelming,” emphasizes Jules Nyssen.

Deposits that are far from negligible?

Another advantage for the SER president: “Often, these projects don’t cost the car park owner a lot.” In the most common economic model, parking lots are indeed leased to solar developers who are responsible for investing in and constructing these shading structures. They then find their account by reselling the generated energy. Some, if not all, of this electricity is sold back to the parking lot owners for their own consumption. “That’s another advantage of this photovoltaic shady house, continues Edouard Roblot. This electricity is not only cheaper than on the market, because it is purchased without intermediaries, but also makes it possible to provide new services. » Usually to supply charging stations, demand will increase. “Today, photovoltaic shading projects are the workshop of the future,” concludes the director of low-carbon buildings at Idex.

But the main advantage of solarizing parking lots lies elsewhere. That is the nature of this surface. Or an area that has been made artificial. In contrast to forests or agricultural land, which can also be coveted by solar project developers. And the potential of this parking lot is far from negligible. In its impact study, the bill estimates that between 90 and 150 million square meters of car parks with an area of ​​more than 2,500 m² are likely to be equipped with carports. For rated power at 9 gigawatts/peak (GW). It’s nothing when the total power of France’s photovoltaic parks reaches 15.8 GW by the end of the third quarter of 2022.

Lowering the threshold to 1500 m² will release larger deposits. “It is difficult to estimate precisely, knowing that some of the parking lots in question could not be isolated for technical reasons, Edouard Roblot began. However, reaching 10 GW seems very easy to achieve and, if you don’t get it right, you can expect to double that. That is potentially more than what has been installed in France to date.

“We can go further”

“In the project, this is undoubtedly the most profitable step for the deployment of solar energy, which frees up the land the most”, also believes Jules Nyssen. “We could have gone further”, regretted, for his part, Charles Fournier. The EELV Deputy for Indre-et-Loire had no thought about his group’s desire to extend the obligatory shade structure to the 250 m² parking lot. “Article 11 tar, introduced by the Senate, requires the installation of renewable energy production processes on the roof surfaces or facades of administrative, commercial and industrial buildings, he recalls. The National Assembly abolished it. This is really a throwback. Thus we can anticipate European regulations in the future. »

For Charles Fournier, however, “the acceleration of the spread of this renewable energy must be done as much as possible and as a priority in areas that have been artificialized and neglected to minimize our impact on biodiversity and protect our food. sovereignty”. A vision that worries SER in which we remember that in his speech in Belfort, on February 10, Emmanuel Macron had expressed his desire to go beyond 100 GW of solar installations by 2050. “If we are satisfied with car parks, roofs, land empty…, we will never be there”, warned Jules Nyssen.

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