U.S. renewable energy advocates have warned of industry slowdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, and decried the lack of support for solar, wind, and other technologies in the recent aid package passed by Congress.
It’s a different story in some foreign countries where the federal government has thrown its support behind renewable energy. France’s ecology minister, Elisabeth Borne, on April 1 gave the green light to about 300 solar and wind projects in that country, while also approving extensions to the commissioning deadlines for several projects where construction is threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health crisis we are going through must not in any way make us give up the ambitious objectives in terms of development of renewable energies in the multi-annual energy programming,” Borne said in a statement. She said progress on several projects, and tenders for renewable installations, have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Borne in a video conference with project developers Wednesday said the government would approve about 1.7 GW of new renewables projects. The projects were awarded as part of national competitions for wind and solar.
Support for Renewables
Borne after the meeting said the government will continue to take steps to support solar and wind projects, including freezing power prices to some rooftop solar installations. Those prices had been expected to increase as of Wednesday.
The approved projects include 35 onshore wind installations of 749.3 MW in total, secured in tenders designed to add 630 MW. Officials said the target was increased due to “very competitive” prices, with an average price for winning bids of €62.9 ($68.76) per MWh.
Another 649 MW of generation capacity will come from 88 ground-mounted solar projects, with an average offered price of €62.11/MWh. An additional 104 MW of capacity will come from 39 solar projects considered more innovative, including so-called agrivoltaic. Another 94.2 MW of capacity from 12 projects has been approved for the Haut-Rhin region to support the area after the planned closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power station.
Borne said initial commissioning deadlines will be extended for projects under construction, with a fixed period of extension defined for each sector. The government also issued a three-month freeze on power prices for small rooftop solar projects, effective April 1. France also could extend the bidding windows in the various tender rounds for renewable energy projects moving forward.
Boralex, a Canadian renewable energy company, on Thursday said four of its wind and solar projects with a combined capacity of 70.4 MW were selected in the latest calls for tenders. The company said all four projects have obtained the required administrative authorizations.
Boralex said it will sign a 20-year feed-in premium agreement for each project. The company has more than 1,000 MW of French wind and solar projects at various stages of development. It currently has 978 MW of operational wind, solar, and thermal power capacity in France.
—Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).