European electricity spot prices climb as forecasts for much warmer temperatures in Germany and a continuing heat wave in France boosted consumption expectations. In the wake of the nuclear plant disaster at Fukushima, Germany is committed to move away from nuclear but France still relies on it for most of its energy, in spite of the fact that it was a pioneer in the development of solar energy. Now its early solar plants are little more than tourist attractions. Will France see the clean energy light and revert to its old “Solar” ways? Photo by Colin McCutcheon of the world’s largest solar powered furnace at Odeillo. Read more
Editor: This article about the historic development of solar energy plants in France was promoted by a visit earlier this month by Sydney-based friends Helene and Colin McCutcheon to the Mont Louis and Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via.
Believe it or not, but France was a leader in the development of solar energy.
Now, France stands alone among leading nations that get a majority of their power from nuclear energy. But there’s a growing chorus of residents who want energy policy to go in a different direction. From a strictly financial perspective, France has built much of its economy on the back of its nuclear base. With 58 reactors and a nuclear capacity of 63 gigawatts (GW), the country is the world’s largest exporter of electricity, mostly to neighboring Italy and Switzerland. It also remains a technological leader in everything from reactor design to the growing use of recycled nuclear fuel.
1866 a Solar Powered Engine
By mid 1866, Augustin Mouchot had completed his first sun powered engine which was presented to Napoleon III in Paris. Mouchot continued development and increased the scale of his solar experiments. Just three years later in 1869 he published a book on solar energy called; “La Chaleur solaire et ses Applications industrielles”. That same year (1869) his largest solar engine was displayed in Paris until the city was taken by the Prussians, his machine disappeared, never again to be found.
The first solar furnace in the world
The solar furnace (four solaire) in Mont Louis, built in 1949 by professor Félix Trombe, was the first solar furnace in the world, an enormous construction of 1420 mirrors. This dual reflection solar furnace has been in steady evolution over the past 50 years and in 1993, was taken over by the company ’Solar Furnace Development’. Along with continued scientific research, they are the first company to use a solar furnace for industrial and manufactured products such as the firing of ceramics, and bronze and alluminium products. One of the first commercial objects manufactured there was the whistle for the petit train jaune. Pottery and bronzes manufacture at the four solaire can be bought in the souvenir shop on site.
Each year, more than 30,000 visitors are fascinated by the solar furnace in Mont-Louis. A programme of experiments and demonstrations are part of a guided visit, for example the concentration of the solar rays to produce temperatures between 2000 °C and 3500 °C, the ignition of wood, melting of metal, and ceramic cooking.
Visits and demonstrations all year round
Did you know that over a hundred years ago, Sorède was a pioneer village where solar energy was concerned. In 1900, a certain Portuguese physicist, Manuel Antonio Gomes, known as Padre Himalaya because of his height, set up one of the first solar furnaces in the world, not far from the Chateau d’Ultrera. Using mules, he hoiked all the necessary equipment to the top of the village, where he built a satellite dish 7 metres in diameter, of which the circular rail still remains to this day. Sorède is now planning to build a giant sundial in the heart of the village, at a cost of 35000 euros, which will be visible from a distance and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The biggest solar furnace in the world
The solar furnace in Odeillo, built in 1969 by Felix Thrombe, is the largest in the world, consisting of a field of 10,000 mirrors, mounted on terraces on the surrounding hillside, which bounce the sun’s rays onto a large concave mirror.This focuses an enormous amount of sunlight onto an area roughly the size of a cooking pot.
Sixty-three heliostats direct the rays of the sun onto the parabolic mirror of almost 2000 square metres. The solar energy can produce temperatures in excess of 3200 degrees Centigrade, unique in the world.
The location was chosen due to the air quality and the fact that the region boasts approximately 300 sunny days per year.
The immense parabolic mirror, tall as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, reflects the countryside and sky, giving an ever changing patchwork view of the surrounding countryside that is beautiful and fascinating to watch…
An exhibition along with demonstrations of the working of the solar furnace, can be seen every day from 10h – 18h. Amongst other things, it explores the potential and actual uses of solar energy for domestic purposes, as well as solutions for the energy crisis. Interesting and educative and well worth exploring with the whole family from a science point of view.
Along with the exhibition, there are demonstrations and guided visits, lasting one hour.
Saint-Charles International in Perpignan, the first European distributor of fruit and vegetables, is now a major producer of green energy.
Europe’s largest solar power plant to be integrated into a building was opened on Thursday, October 13th at the international market of Saint-Charles in Perpignan, Europe’s biggest distributor of fruits and vegetables.
Over two years, the asbestos cement sheets that covered the 11 buildings on the site have been replaced by 68 000m2 of 97,000 photovoltaic tiles. The installation of 8.8 MW will sell electricity to EDF, and produce the electricity for around 10% of the population of Perpignan. The project has been completed following an investment of 54 million euros.
Hundreds of refrigerated trucks, laden with vegetables from Spain and North Africa Market arrive every day in the loading docks and warehouses of Saint-Charles, generating large amounts of CO2 that the new roof should help offset – in part – through technical innovation, meaning that about 1560 tons of waste will be avoided annually.
With over 2,500 sunshine hours per year, the Languedoc-Roussillon is particularly conducive to the development of solar energy. The project could also proceed further with the installation, in 2015, of 250,000 square meters of photovoltaic tiles covering the entire area of Grand St. Charles, doubling or even tripling production!
Information from P-O Life Magazine, an original and informative booklet, much in demand by the English speaking community in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of France. Take your time exploring the site. If you’re not already a fan of the Pyrenees-Orientales, you soon will be!
Spanish company Grupo Clavijo recently completed France’s largest solar plant, located in Curbans in the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region.
Covering the equivalent of 130 football fields, total installed power equals 33MW, supplying energy to 30,000 inhabitants and saving up to 120,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
It took 80 employees over 15 months to install.
By Michel Rose for Reuters (17 August 2012):
* Heat wave over France to reach Germany on Monday
* Consumption peak only partly offset by solar power rise
European electricity spot prices climbed on Friday as forecasts for much warmer temperatures in Germany and a continuing heat wave in France boosted consumption expectations for early next week.
Germany’s Monday delivery baseload was up 3.75 euros day-on-day to 56 euros ($69.23) per megawatt hour, while the equivalent French contract rose 5.50 euros to 57.75 euros a MWh.
“The (latest) forecast expects Monday to be the hottest day of the current heat wave on average in Germany,” Thomson Reuters Point Carbon analysts wrote on Friday.
“Solar production is forecast to remain healthy but could decrease a bit from the weekend,” they said.
Temperatures in Germany will reach 25.5 degrees Celsius on average on Monday, up from 19.4 degrees on Friday, boosting expectations for an increase in consumption despite the summer lull as more people use air conditioning systems.
A blast of hot Saharan air has already sparked a heat wave alert in southwestern France, with weather forecaster Meteo
France warning of temperatures reaching up to 39 degrees Celsius on Friday and reaching 30 degrees across much of the country.
Central and northern regions of France will in turn be affected over the weekend and early next week, with the government triggering a level-2 alert on the 1-3 heat wave warning system for 21 of mainland France’s 96 “departements”.
German consumption will rise to 63.5 GW on Monday, almost 2GW more than on Friday, while in France, power demand will increase by more than 3 GW to about 45.8 GW.
On the supply side, French nuclear power capacity remains tight, while a slight increase in German wind and solar power output will fail to offset the consumption increase.
Along the forward curve, Germany’s benchmark 2013 contract for baseload delivery next year was up 10 cents to 49.5 euros in over-the-counter trading. The equivalent French contract was down 25 cents to 51.50 euros. BY1FR-1Y
Brent crude futures for October delivery fell more than 1 percent on Friday on talk of possible releases of U.S. strategic petroleum reserves and expectations that North Sea output will rebound after September production is curbed by maintenance.
In corporate news, four sources told Reuters that Germany’s biggest power company E.ON was in talks to expand in Turkey by buying a stake in energy firm Enerjisa from Austria’sVerbund.
In France, the government denied a press report that the chief executive of French power group EDF, Henri Proglio, could be replaced by Guillaume Pepy, the head of state-owned French railways SNCF.