Tropical island aims for energy self-sufficiency

A solar power plant on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion has become France's biggest such installation - and an important step towards the island's goal of energy self-sufficiency by 2025.

Photovoltaic panels covering 1 hectare (10,000 sq m) will be generating an annual 1.3MWh thanks to the 1,350 hours of sunlight that the French island near Madagascar receives each year. The project is an important step towards self-sufficiency for the island, which is roughly the size of London with a population of around 300,000.

The island already sources around 45% of its electricity from renewables – mostly hydro and ‘bagasse,’ or biomass left over from the production of sugar cane burned to produce electricity. This compares with 12% of the electricity market occupied by renewables in mainland France.

The Reunion’s oil imports have been growing by 7-8% each year since 2000, prompting the regional government to invest heavily in renewables. In its “regional renewables and rational energy use” action plan, launched in 2004, it sets itself the ambitious goal of making the island energy self-sufficient by 2025.

The profitabilty of the 5m euro solar project was boosted by a rise in the tariffs France pays for green electricity – Electricite de France (EDF) now buys solar electricity from Corsica and overseas French regions like the Reunion at 0.40 euro per KWh compared with 0.30 euro in mainland France.

European as well as French funds were used to finance the projects, which is expected to generate annual profits of 520,000 euros from the sale of green electricity.

Although the Reunion’s new renewable source is now officially France’s biggest PV installation, it does not come near the massive solar power plant in Moura, Portugal – the world’s biggest at 62MW.

More information on energy generation on the Reunion island can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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