In March 2023, France passed a law to accelerate the production of renewable energy. In this interview, Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine, Deputy Director of Business Development at TSE, discusses the important role that agroelectricity will play not only in weaning the country off fossil fuels, but also in providing benefits to French farmers.
What is the development potential of agricultural electricity projects in France?
How can combining agriculture and solar energy benefit agricultural lands and operations?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: Combining solar energy with farmland or livestock offers various advantages. First, it provides the crop with protection from climatic hazards such as hail or extreme temperatures by creating a rotating shade on the plot. This allows for temperature regulation and switching between moments of water and plant heat stress. It also reduces evaporation and, as a result, water consumption. For example, in the first soybean harvest of our Amance project, we have reported a 75% reduction in system water stress compared to the reference area!
Every developer has certain requirements for the solution they design. TSE has developed a range of products that meet specific needs and field constraints to provide agricultural solar solutions for crops, livestock areas, fallow land and so on.
What technical features should be taken into account?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: The main constraints we integrate are related to plot orientation, typology, topography and, of course, the traditional requirements of solar power plants. What makes TSE’s solutions special is that they are designed according to the needs of agricultural operations. Our challenge is to offer the farmer a service that adapts to his farming practices, be it cultivation or mechanization. Our canopy enables the passage of almost all agricultural machinery thanks to the 27-meter space between the posts in the direction of cultivation and the Matali point 5 meters away.
Who are your different partners and how do you work with them?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: We develop a large number of projects in accordance with the incredible challenge of the country. We rely on partners who are established locally and are able to industrialize in large quantities, such as Huawei in our inverters.
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How can agrovoltaics help achieve France’s energy transition goals?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: The energy crisis in which France has been mired for the past two years has more to do with a capacity crisis than with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. France needs to explosively develop its power generation capacity over the next 10 to 15 years for three reasons: First, we need to decarbonize our energy mix, which is still 61 percent fossil fuels. This requires the electrification of usage patterns and the development of carbon dioxide-free energy sources such as hydrogen; second, we need to replace the vast nuclear power capacity that will be phased out between 2030 and 2035 – in the hope that those plants will operate at acceptable costs and availability until then. and finally, because we want to re-industrialize the country, solar energy – as the cheapest, fastest-to-deploy and most accepted energy source – is the best possible answer to supplement our historic nuclear fleet.
In France, the law on accelerating the production of renewable energy, issued on March 10, 2023, has provided a framework for solar power installations on agricultural land. What will this change for the industry?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: Although this law is imperfect, it has a double value. It is the first law dedicated to renewable energy, which shows the will to accelerate. It also provides a clear and binding framework for what agricultural electricity is and should be: the coexistence of the two activities with solar energy production offers agriculture an advantage that is not only financial. Now we have to wait for the application regulations to make sure these requirements work!
What are the milestones you want to achieve in the coming years?
Bertrand Drouot L’Hermine: On a technical level, our innovations are now mature and validated. We are committed to developing more pilot projects with the best technical partners, agricultural chambers, cooperatives such as Dijon Céréales, INRAE (National Institute for Agricultural Research), Purpan Agricultural School or Institut de l’Elevage. to present the services offered by our solutions. On the other hand, we are developing our solutions even more widely throughout the country. TSE is the solar energy producer with the strongest regional granularity. We develop projects all over France.