Europe is increasingly becoming a region with the fastest-growing energy revolution as the community have seized the opportunity to control and produce their renewable energy. Community solar project in Europe is an incredible concept that has levelled the renewable energy playing field for every citizen. Either business owners, groups, NGOs, individuals, and more can build, lease and co-own a solar array of energy. It is an opportunity for even the least earning family or people who rented the home they live in to afford such luxury.
Now, that’s a win-win for everyone.
Impact of Community Solar Projects on EU Energy Goals
A new green energy deal that the EU has just secured will see them become the leader of community solar projects.
The EU has enacted laws that would see citizens build solar projects in their backyard rather than seeking one in faraway towns or foreign countries. The goal is to make millions of citizens in Europe consume the energy they produce.
More so, the EU is hoping to attain their goal of zero-carbon emission by 2050. Large scale development of solar projects would go a long way in achieving this feat.
Although multinational companies will play a vital role in this transition, the community cooperatives will eventually outpace the companies’ contribution making it a centralized and decentralized renewable energy production.
To attain the goal of clean energy, environmental-friendly climate and cost-effective production of renewable energy by 2050, the EU has empowered local producers of solar panels, which would strongly boost the grassroots movement of renewable energy development.
Several communities in different regions in Europe have started replacing their non-renewable energy source with solar projects to power their homes, farms and ranches.
Community Solar Project in Italy
Italy started slowly in the integration of solar community projects, and they are not backing down.
Over 40 households in the Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy Region, are currently testing the installation of the Solar PV projects targeted at social housing. A collective effort of this community will see houses and electric vehicles catered for.
Other areas like Poggio Renatico, the province of Ferrara, will be the first (of many) communities in Italy to have a solar PV farm. However, it has been tipped to have the best solar project technology on the planet. The best part is, it is an initiative that allows the active participation of citizens.
Consequently, the Italian government has seen this as an opportunity to boost the economy after the upturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the government has reviewed the renewable energy laws making it possible for citizens to get solar project bonuses in tax-deductible allowance to produce and install solar PV systems.
Community Solar Programs in Germany
The genesis of the solar programs in Germany was quite remarkable. It began with the pioneers of Nuclear-Free Future (NFF) proclaiming the gospel of clean energy.
After the devastating effect of nuclear plants and fossil fuels in the 1980s, the parent members of this initiative went from door to door, sensitizing every German citizen (in Schönau, a rural town in southwest Germany) in the early 1990s on clean energy production.
Over time, the objective came to fruition, and the whole community came together to develop a clean energy source. NFF made this possible through potential government subsidies and information on alternative energy sources.
Schönau rural town went from nuclear power sources to hydroelectric powered systems, supported with photovoltaic (PV) systems in the long run. Thus, EWS (ElektrizitätsWerke Schönau), as it is so-called, is known not only for its promotion of green energy or electricity movement but one of the first pioneers of improving the participation of people and communities in solar programs.
EWS became an energy supplier for solar programs and other clean energy sources in Germany in 1997. Presently, there are over 100,000 customers across Germany purchasing electricity from EWS.
More so, EWS is creating the densest solar power in the whole of Germany. This spread like wildfire, making Germany the world largest solar program facilitator.
Switzerland Community Solar Projects
The primary source of renewable energy in Switzerland is solar energy. The early 1980s saw Switzerland become the first region in Europe to power an electricity network with a photovoltaic system. As a result, the region is known as a master of innovation in solar energy.
Construction of solar projects has evolved in smaller communities have installations are now seen in single-family homes and multi-family homes. This has helped reduce the cost of installations and the development of more PV systems. Now, panels are made with roof coverings and exterior designs.
The Swiss government has made this possible by supporting solar community projects with 30% of the initial cost, and the rest is split amongst the community.
This has given rise to over 80,000 solar projects (PV system) installations generating over 2,000 MW of power – catering for 3.4% of electricity consumption in Switzerland.
Community Solar Projects in France
The largest solar plant in the world, which happen to be a community solar project, is in France. This floating revolutionary solar project is being constructed in the Southern part of France.
The project incorporates a communal dimension where citizens were allowed to have a stake in the project. The primary objective of this approach is to encourage citizens to become involved in the financing of the clean energy transition in France.
This project would power over 4,000 homes and reduce C02 emission into the atmosphere by 11%
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Community solar projects permit everybody to profit from solar energy, whether they can or cannot put panels on a housetop.
In regions where solar power is more affordable than customarily created power, buyers can get a good deal on their month to month bills.
If supporters move to another home inside a similar utility assistance region or province, they can normally keep on profiting from their local area solar timeshare.
In France, the electricity-generating mix is made up of five essential sources: coal, natural gas, petroleum and other liquid fuels, nuclear power and renewable sources.
Renewable resources are the fastest-growing electricity generation source increasing by 2.9% per year. Hydropower is the predominant renewable source leading the global trend, and it accounted for 62,08% of the renewable energy production in France for 2015.
Interesting Facts About Renewable Energy in France.
Despite having such a considerable percentage of its electrical energy come from hydropower, the French power system is dominated by stable nuclear power generation.
In the 1970s and 80s, the government of France decided to build thirty-four 900 MWe nuclear reactors while the rest of the world was recuperating from two oil crises. The success of these nuclear programs and their subsequent additions removed France from a constant reliance on fossil fuels. As of 2000, France’s nuclear energy represented 75% of its electricity production, meeting national and export needs.
However, nuclear waste is a foreboding partner of nuclear energy. So, diversification became paramount. France got to see a bit of this diversity in their power mix during the coronavirus-related lockdowns by introducing more stable renewable energy sources. In spring, some days would manage up to 35% of total electricity production just from renewables.
The French Ministry of Ecological Transition has said that with support and rapid development, renewable energy sources are becoming more competitive. Prices of solar photovoltaic energy have fallen by 40% within the past five years, while the prices of onshore wind power have fallen to half of that percentage within its range of three years.
Renewable Energy Policies In France
Since the days of heavy dependence on nuclear power, the second-largest economy in the European Union has been focused on a certain form of self-reliance and development. The government has now decided to cut down the usage of nuclear reactors and fill those gaps with renewable energy sources, ensuring a sustainable energy transition for all.
The development of renewable energy was extensively promoted via public support until recently. With the government’s involvement on a larger scale, production costs are expected to fall further, facilitating lower costs for renewable energy generation.
President Emmanuel Macron plans to fall in line with the Paris agreements, Energy Transition for Green Growth and biodiversity laws.
Here are the objectives of EN MARCHE (The Environmental Program):
- Significant reduction of fossil fuels through the closure of coal-based plants in 5 years, ban on shale gas explorations and integration of ecological cost in the price of carbon by a carbon tax increase of up to €100/tCO2 in 2030
- Acceleration of changes towards carbon-free energy production by financing renewable energy, favouring private investments, focusing on research and development and implementing the energy transition law with the objective of 32% RES in 2030
- Introducing a new economic model of recycling
- Supporting the transitions through job creation and protection of biodiversity
The Energy Transition Law (ETL) has its policies entrenched in increasing the use of renewable energy through
- Creating means to possibly allow citizens and local authorities to receive funding for renewable energy projects
- Introduce the widespread use of single permits for wind energy, biogas and hydroelectricity
- Mandate obligatory power purchase prices to finance renewable electricity that is self-generated by private individuals and businesses
- Bring to fruition the objective of financing 1500 Methanation projects in France alone
- Introducing 35 million smart meters (smart grid technology)
Under the ETL, the Multiannual Energy Plan (MEP/PPE) sets a general orientation for the energy policy in France from 2019 to 2023 and 2024 to 2028. This general policy includes projections and plans for renewable electricity, hydropower, onshore wind, offshore wind, photovoltaic solar, methanation (waste and biogas), firewood, marine, geothermal and solar thermal.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In France
The France Energy Ministry, in the first week of April 2020 awarded 1.7 GW of renewable projects to private developers through a national-level auction. The wind turbine is supposed to power 750 MW of that 1.7 GW while different solar technologies will power the rest. Through several procurement rounds, well over 288 projects were approved, potentially supplying 2.6 TWh of electricity every year to the French grid realistically.
According to Platts Renewables Tracker, France has 17 GW of onshore wind and 10 GW of solar capacity already installed and expected to generate up to 34% yearly.
The energy company – Total has received over 135 MW of solar projects from France with its future largest ground-mounted solar plant in Valenciennes with a capacity of 50 MWp. It is the largest project awarded in the call for tenders and Total Quadran’s biggest solar plant to date. It will supply green energy to more than 30,000 people when it comes online in 2022.
The largest PV power plant of the Greater Paris Region with 25 MWp was also tendered to Total. This one will generate green electricity for nearly 17,000 people when it comes on stream by 2022.
The French government hopes to increase the support for renewables by 25% by injecting €6 billion into renewables energy spending in 2021, targeting further diversification of the country’s energy mix, and by 2028 double installed renewable electricity capacity to up to 113 GW. Onshore wind will generate up to 34.7 GW, offshore wind – 6.2 GW, solar – 44 GW and hydropower 26.7 GW.
By 2035, 14 nuclear reactors will be closed; two found in eastern France at Electricite de France SA’s Fessenheim plant have already been shuttered.
Hydroelectricity is currently the primary source of France’s renewable electricity, but wind power is slowly catching up. Projections show wind power will overtake hydroelectricity in France by 2030 with 43,89% of the total energy mix.
France aims to reduce its energy consumption by 14% by 2028 and increase installed RE power generation to 74 GW in 2023. This will bring the net addition within the ten years upheld by MEP/PPE to about 50 MW – 60 MW.
The French government has outlined and streamlined their strategy to a smooth energy transition, along with most of the EU states, setting targets for a better energy generation outlook that will fit their unique economy.