The sun provides plentiful and renewable energy. Photovoltaic technologies capture this energy and convert it into electricity.
Photovoltaic solar power is produced from the conversion of sunlight into electricity by photosensitive materials. These materials possess properties that release their electrons under the impact of an external energy, in this case the photons that compose light. This reaction is called photovoltaic energy or solar power which generates an electric current. This direct micro-current is calculated in Watt-peak (Wp). The direct current is converted into alternative current by an inverter.
Electricity generated from solar power can be used to supply remote sites or be injected into the national electricity distribution grid. The advantages of solar power are its reliability, its autonomy and its low impact on the environment.
Solar power plants
There are two mains types of solar power plant:
- plants integrated in buildings (mainly on roofs),
- ground-based plants (generally the case of high capacity plants).
A solar power installation is composed of the following elements:
- Solar power modules. These are composed of photovoltaic cells connected together. These cells are themselves composed of semi-conductive material (silicon), that converts sunlight into electric energy.
- Supporting structures. They make up the chassis for photovoltaic modules. Different structures are used depending on whether the installation is fixed on a building or installed on the ground. For ground-based plants, they can be fixed and directed southwards, or mobile and follow the sun’s trajectory throughout the day, from east to west.
- Electric equipment. They transport and transform the electric current produced into a current compatible with injection into the distribution grid.
Solar power will undoubtedly take up a larger share of French electricity production. The law on energy transition, voted in July 2015, aims to increase the share of renewable energies (water, wind, sun, geothermal, biomass, etc.) in French electricity production from 14% in 2012, to 23% by 2020, and then to 32% by 2030.
CNR is developing in solar power
CNR started producing solar power in 2008 when it built a pilot solar power plant with an installed capacity of 110 kWp (kilowatt-peak) on the roof of the Bollène hydropower plant (Vaucluse).
The following year, CNR commissioned its first ground-based solar power plant at Saulce-sur-Rhône (4.1 MWp), in Drôme. This was followed in 2011 by the ground-based plants of Bollène (4 MWp) and Beaucaire-Tarascon (3 MWp).
In end-2016, we had 17 solar power plants with a total installed capacity of 61 MWp and have set ourselves the objective of increasing our solar power potential to 140 MWp by 2020, thereby tripling our potential of 2015.
Concentrated photovoltaic panels
In 2014, CNR commissioned a ground-based solar power plant with a capacity of 1.2 MWp at Vallabrègues (Gard) of which part uses the innovative technology of concentrated photovoltaic panels. This type of panel is composed of lenses that concentrate sunlight onto the photovoltaic cells. In addition, it is installed on mobile structures that follow the sun’s trajectory.
Associating the territories and preserving the environment
Our development in renewable energies satisfies a twofold requirement:
- building our projects jointly with local authorities by offering them innovative partnerships so they can benefit from part of the income generated by our plants;
- choosing sites already affected by human activity to install our solar power plants, to avoid conflict with farming, and without any stakes for the environment (fauna, flora, heritage, habitat).