A giant 1 gigawatt (1000 megawatt) solar-plus-storage project is currently planned for France. Engie, one of the world’s biggest energy companies, and Neoen, a large French power producer, are planning to build this project together near the small French town of Saucats. The project’s name is Horizeo.
Saucats is part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France, which has a 2030 solar power capacity target of 8.5 gigawatts (GW). Nouvelle-Aquitaine currently has 2 GW installed. So, this project would significantly help the region to achieve its 2030 target (achieving 15% if the target by itself).
The cost of this solar-plus-storage power plant is estimated to be a cool €1 billion. It will also include a green hydrogen production element, agrivoltaic solar (that’s a combo of farming and solar power), and a data center. It’s not yet clear who the power will be sold to.
Interestingly, trying to initiate an open, inclusive, community-focused approach to the development of such large power plants, The key partners — Engie, Neoen, RTE (a grid operator), and the City of Saucats — submitted the project to France’s National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP), which decided to hold a public discussion with members of the community about the project. This sort of involvement from an early stage is shown to increase community buy-in for such projects (though, it is seldom done), and improves the chances that a large project will not be held up by NIMBY-driven community protest or other challenges.
If all goes according to plan, this solar-plus-storage project is expected to be completed and commissioned in 2026.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine has the most tourism jobs of any region of France — due to a handful of historic resorts. Perhaps this large solar project could become part of the tours visitors to the region experience.
Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet, ENGIE’s Executive Vice President in charge of renewable energies, commented: “The HORIZEO project is unprecedented and innovative in terms of its renewable energy production capacity and it goes much further by combining, on a single site, some technologies of the future. It is also an ambitious project for its business model, in which the energy produced will be sold through PPA negotiated with private companies, outside the State tender process with its associated subsidies. This is a real break with the current business model for renewable energies in France. We are also committed to carrying out a project that is exemplary in its environmental and societal approach. The forthcoming public debate will allow us, in particular, to enrich and nourish all the project’s components.”
Paul-François Croisille, NEOEN’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “HORIZEO is a large-scale project intended to demonstrate that it is possible to speed up the energy transition in France by offering competitive renewable energy directly to companies. This project is designed as a true low-carbon energy platform, combining mature solar energy with ambitious technological innovations, such as electricity storage batteries. Our priority is to integrate this project into the characteristics of the region, from an ecological, societal and economic point of view. In keeping with the unprecedented scale of the project, the public debate will allow all local players and the general public to be involved as widely as possible, to develop all its potential for the benefit of the region.”