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Environment: creation of the largest photovoltaic park in Europe in Saucats in Gironde amid controversy – France 3 Régions

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The project could see the light of day in 2027. But before that, it must be endorsed, while voices are already being raised against evoking an ecological problem. This week opens the mandatory public debate for a project of this magnitude.

A 1000 hectare photovoltaic plant. It’s huge, the equivalent of 1,200 football pitches. The electricity produced would be 1 GigaWatt. The chosen site is located in the town of Saucats in Gironde. Problem, we would have to raze 1000 hectares of pines, “An environmental paradox” for some elected officials who denounce this project.

Saucats and its pines

If this municipality was chosen, it is because an RTE transformer station is already located in Saucats. Connected to a very high voltage line, it is capable of injecting large quantities of electricity into the network. The cost of this project called “Horizeo” is 1 billion euros.
It is supported by Engie, Neoen, and RTE, and the Banque des Territoires. The photovoltaic park of around 1GW should supply “Several technological” bricks “: electricity storage batteries, an electrolyser producing hydrogen, a data center covering an area of ​​5 ha maximum”.

Currently on this site, there are 1000 hectares of forest, in this case pines belonging to a forest group. This land is therefore used for forestry but also for hunting to which many Girondins are attached.

Elected officials denounce the creation of this park if it leads to the destruction of 1000 hectares of pines.

© FTV

A public debate organized until January 9

It is an obligation. This public debate is essential for a project of this magnitude. Concretely, it will make it possible to inform as well as to note the objections of each other. A two-way dialogue to find a consensus. The first public meeting will be held on Thursday, September 9.

Our ambition is first of all to inform », Explains Jacques Archimbaud, president of the Horizeo special public debate committee. “ The second subject is to deal with all the aspects of the problem, that is to say the environmental, economic and social aspects. Forestry aspects, technological or industrial risks. We do not forget any of the subjects “.

Photovoltaic park project in Cestas in Gironde

Alain Rousset’s questions

Clearly, opinions are divided on this project. And Alain Rousset’s speech is the perfect illustration of this. ” At the same time, it is going in the right direction “, Says the President of the Region,” and at the same time, it must be declined, and the devil is often in the detail ”.

For Alain Rousset, “decarbonizing” is a “climate duty”. ” Today 5% of electricity in New Aquitaine comes from photovoltaics “, He said,” we have to increase “.

However, Alain Rousset would like some of his questions to be answered. “ Why has the government left the hand to the energy companies and has not, with the inter-municipal authorities, the region, and the sectors, rather think about the best less impactful locations on the territory? “. How not to waterproof the entire site while allowing vegetation and biodiversity (including agriculture) to develop?
On this point the president of the region could be assured because the project provides “An agricultural plot oriented towards the collective catering of the territory”.
It remains to be seen how large this surface will be. And finally, which technologies to use and for what profitability?

We are clearly in a choice of the future. We have to frame it well (…) but we have to progress.

Alain Rousset

Today we cannot be satisfied with simply covering the roofs“, he continues.”This is not the answer. So is it really big projects like this? Is it the multiplication of projects of 50 hectares, 100 hectares etc …? Or is it, looking at the future of technologies, is it a site that can have all the compensations (…) but which is not completely compact? “.


© MaxPPP

Jean-Luc Gleyze’s opposition

For the moment, the president of the departmental council of La Gironde is opposed to this project. “It is the environmental paradox today: to develop renewable energies and at the same time, to cut 1000 hectares of forest, knowing that the forest is a lung which absorbs CO2 and which is therefore an answer to environmental questions. So I think the subject is worth a real debate », Continues the elected.

As far as I’m concerned, I think that there are other ways to dig than cutting the forest, 1000 hectares of forest, in particular to achieve photovoltaics.

Jean-Luc Gleyze

There are sometimes wasteland in the forest such as old controlled landfills of household waste that could be reinvested for photovoltaics.“, suggests the president of the departmental council.
We cannot speak of the absence of artificialization of the soil and say that we are building photovoltaics on a forest. Whereas, on the contrary, today when you want to set up a business in a community of rural communes or sometimes set up a public equipment project, well we ask you not to artificialise the soil. And so I find that there is also a paradox in the application of the law (…) “.

“JI believe there are ways to be found on law enforcement and the spirit of the law“, he continues.”I have already alerted the Prefect who is rather sensitive to the subject. But we really have to reconcile land use planning with this issue of non-urban sprawl or the absence of urban sprawl. I think we can find solutions but we have to work on it more accentuated, more in-depth it seems to me, than putting together a project which in my opinion has a very strong environmental impact “.

What role can the public authorities play in this environmental dynamic? ” Public authorities have a role to play », Answers Jean-Luc Gleyze. “ But when we put photovoltaic energy in a college, that’s obviously one of the answers. When the parking lot at the Bordeaux exhibition center was covered with photovoltaics, that is one of the answers. So I think we have to look at how we can, in the municipalities, the Department, the Region and the Metropolis, find solutions but solutions that are much more virtuous solutions than cutting 1000 hectares of forest. We can be fully involved and I think the solutions can exist “.

All the players in this dossier have four months to raise all these questions during the public debate. The public opening meeting will be held on Thursday 9 September at 6.30 p.m. at the Palais des Congrès in Bordeaux Lac. Chantal Jouanno, President of the National Commission for Public Debate and Fabienne Buccio, Prefect of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region. This meeting is public and therefore open to everyone. To register, Click here.

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