The success of the solar auction in France delivered at the expense of nuclear


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France has announced the winners of the country’s latest round of auctions for renewable energy, including 12 solar projects totaling just under 100 MW of combined capacity ordered to replace a decommissioned nuclear power plant.

The latest round of tenders, representing around 1.7 GW of wind and solar projects, was announced this week by the government alongside new measures to support developers struggling due to Covid-19, including extended commissioning times.

French Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Elisabeth Borne, has announced 288 photovoltaic and wind projects allocated during several recent auctions – including 253 solar projects, ranging from large photovoltaic farms to “innovative PV” installations, and tables on the roof.

Of particular importance, 12 solar projects with a total power of 94.2 MW have been selected to be built at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in the Haut-Rhin, during decommissioning – its second and last reactor will be shut down in June 30.

The allocation – which attracted offers averaging between € 55.78-98.5 / MWh ($ 99.80-176.24 / MWh) – was the result of the second round of Fessenheim’s French program, which ultimately aims to install 300 MW of solar energy near the 41-year-old nuclear power plant belonging to the French energy giant EDF.

Source: PVTech

France currently draws around 75% of its electricity from nuclear power plants, but many – like Fussenheim – are old and increasingly unreliable. In addition to this, the government aims to reduce its dependence on nuclear energy to 50% by 2035, while increasing its installed solar capacity from 9.1 GW today to 35.6-44.5 GW by 2028.

As PV-Tech reports, the country’s attempt to replace the old nuclear with solar has gained momentum, fueled by a combination of increasingly profitable renewable energies and the stubbornly high cost of building a new nuclear – illustrated by the Hinkley Point C debacle of EDF in the UNITED KINGDOM.

Add to that concerns about the safety and reliability of the technology – especially around aging facilities like Fussenheim – and the solar and wind technologies and the accompanying energy storage technologies offer an obvious replacement.

The closure of the power plant is an important event for France – Borne hailed the closure in February of the first reactor in Fessenheim as a “historic step” – because it is the first time that one of the country’s 58 nuclear reactors will be permanently removed from the country’s electrical power grid.

The move was also welcomed by France’s closest neighbors, Germany and Switzerland, whose officials have long demanded the closure of Fessenheim.

“The time has finally come,” said German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze in February, who also said that closing Fessenheim would make Germany “safer”.

“Nuclear power is not a climate saver. It is risky, expensive and leaves radioactive waste for thousands of generations, ”she said.


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