Whenever I take the train from Paris to Munich, I am always struck by how few solar panels there are in France compared to Germany. Despite having worse weather conditions, Germany had a cumulative solar photovoltaic capacity of 67 gigawatts compared to France’s 16.5 gigawatts (end of 2022).
As with most things in the sustainability space the difference is due to legislation. In the early 2000s the Germans gave generous subsidies for individuals and businesses to install solar.
France has recently inked a new law that will radically change its photovoltaic uptake.
French President Emmanuel Macron (Belfort speech early 2022) stated that solar PV production should be increased tenfold to over 100 gigawatts (GW). This year, parliament passed a new law that makes it compulsory for parking lots of more than 1,500 m2 to have half their surface area covered in solar. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, this will result in an installed capacity of between 6.75 gigawatts and 11.25 gigawatts, at a cost of up to $14.6 billion.
This is an impressive amount of power. France’s 56 nuclear power plants average 1 gigawatt each.
This means that rooftop solar could replace an equivalent of 8 nuclear power stations (on a sunny day) at no cost to the government. France’s latest nuclear reactor in Flamanville is 10 years behind schedule and will have cost €13,2 billion by the time it is operational next year. Nuclear is a great clean source of energy but has one weakness in a warming world. In recent summers, EDF has had to power down its reactors along the Rhone and Garonne rivers because drought conditions resulted in insufficient water to cool the reactors without impacting aquatic life in the river.
Thanks to decreasing costs of solar and increasing energy costs, the French government would have popular support for regulating solar. Even without it private players are entertaining the benefits of sun power. Disneyland Paris is in the process of building a 17 MW solar carport project that will have 86,000 panels and will be capable of generating 31 GWh of electricity per year, contributing almost a 5th of its electricity needs.
Solar, Battery, EV Integration:
Not only are solar panel prices plummeting but so too are battery prices. There is an overcapacity of EVs in the world and softening demand in China, which is driving down the costs of battery materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. Since the start of the year, lithium is down by 70%, and nickel by 40%. Jim Lennon of Macquarie Bank believes that Cobalt supply will be double what the market needs in the coming years.
Not only will the prices for high density li-ion batteries drop, so too will the prices of sodium-ion batteries, which are better suited for energy storage.
Are we seeing the beginnings of a new type of business, one that combines low-cost clean energy with energy storage, and with parking bays? This new business will attract interest from retailers, parking operators and fleet managers. Winning companies will master the integration of solar, battery storage and EVs.
Europe’s high electricity prices mean that capital payback is only 3-5 years, offering 20 years of free energy. There will be advantage for those who integrate solar, battery and EV fleets; they can:
- Use solar power during peak hours
- Store grid energy during off-peak hours
- Sell energy back to the grid during peak hours or use it
With a combination of solar, static battery storage and EV fleets with bi-directional charging, fleet operators are able to take advantage of energy arbitrage. This radically reduces the total ownership cost of the fleet as it is now part of a revenue generating energy system.
At Autonomy we believe the future of mobility is an integration of solar, batteries and EVs. For this reason, we are launching a new trade show called, Autonomy Solar & Battery Expo which will run alongside Autonomy Mobility World Expo. In addition we have a dedicated summit on Mobility Electrification: Solar, Battery, EV & Charge integration.