Renewables

Parking lots in France must set up solar panels

Parking lots in France must set up solar panels

Photo: Andri Klopfenstein on Unsplash

Published

November 11, 2022

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Published:

November 11, 2022

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Under a new law, car parks in France with 80 or more spots will need to be equipped with overhead solar power panels. The government is counting on electricity capacity equivalent to ten nuclear reactors.

The French Senate voted to introduce a landmark rule for increasing renewable energy production. Operators of parking lots with 80 to 400 units are getting a five-year deadline starting in July to install overhead photovoltaic systems on at least half of the surface. The law passed by the upper house of the French Parliament stipulates that larger parking facilities have only three years to fulfill the obligation.

The technology brings multiple benefits. Overhead solar power installations create shade, so less energy is spent on cooling the vehicles. At the same time, they rarely harm the environment and it’s easier to get approvals for such systems than for other kinds of power plants or other locations for photovoltaics. Finally, it is useful to have an onsite power source for charging electric vehicles and for surrounding structures and devices.

Of note, the European Commission has just proposed a temporary emergency regulation that would, among other changes, exempt solar power facilities of up to 50 kW from the obligation to assess environmental impact. The measure is intended to bridge the period until the revised Renewable Energy Directive formally accelerates procedures.

The initiative derives from the REPowerEU plan to eliminate the dependence on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible. In particular, parking lots, façades and roofs are some of the areas with the greatest expansion potential.

Solar power arrays envisaged for land next to highways, railway tracks

France is considering legislation that would spur the construction of solar power plants in places next to motorways and railway tracks and on certain types of agricultural land.

Owners of car parks can opt for types of renewable energy systems other than solar power

As for the parking lots, the government estimated the potential at a stunning 11 GW, which is equivalent to ten nuclear reactors. Owners can also opt for types of renewable energy systems other than solar power.

The new rule was initially supposed to be for car parks larger than 2,500 square meters, but the senators decided to determine the threshold according to the number of spots. This way they covered many more locations as the said surface can fit one hundred or so cars. There is still no information on any incentives in the pipeline.

Landscape significance at landmark sites can exempt car park operators from new rule

The said law won’t apply to parking lots for trucks of over 7.5 tons. Exemptions are possible in case of technical and security barriers, architectural issues and the need to protect cultural heritage. For instance, it won’t be obligatory to set up solar panels on surfaces where they would hinder the view over landmarks even if they are not under official protection. Densely shaded areas are an exception, too.

President Emmanuel Macron recently promised to double the speed of permitting for renewables, but also to accelerate nuclear energy projects. France is the only European Union member state that fell behind in 2020 in meeting its green energy targets as it is still relying mostly on nuclear power.

In the meantime, a string of malfunctions and a severe drought slashed output in the country’s reactors to record lows, exacerbating Europe’s energy crisis.

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