Environment: creation of Europe’s largest photovoltaic park in Saucats in Gironde against a backdrop of controversy

The project could see the light of day in 2027. But before that, it must be endorsed, while voices are already being raised against the evocation of 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 fields. The electricity produced would be 1 GigaWatt. The chosen location is located in the town of Saucats in Gironde. Problem, we would have to destroy 1000 hectares of pine trees, “An Environmental Paradox” for some elected officials who denounce this project.

Saucats and their pines

If this municipality was chosen, it is because there is already an RTE transformer station in Saucats. Connected to a very high voltage line, it is capable of injecting large amounts of electricity into the grid. 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 approximately 1 GW must supply “Several” technological bricks: batteries for accumulating electricity, an electrolyser for hydrogen production, a data center with a maximum area of ​​5 ha”.

Currently in this location, there are 1000 hectares of forest, in this case pine trees belonging to a forest group. This land is therefore used for forestry, but also for hunting, to which many Girondins are linked.

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


A public debate organized until January 9th

It’s a must. This public debate is essential for a project of this magnitude. Concretely, it will allow both to inform and to notice each other’s objections. A two-way dialogue to reach consensus. The first public meeting will be held on Thursday, September 9th.

Our ambition is above all to inform » Explains Jacques Archimbaud, chairman of the special public debate committee Horizeo. “ The second issue is to deal with all aspects of the problem, that is, the environmental, economic and social aspects. Forest aspects, technological or industrial risks. We didn’t forget any of the subjects

Questions by Alain Rousset

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 rejected, and the devil is often in the details”.

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 answered. “ Why did the government leave the hand of the energy companies and not, with the inter-municipal authorities, the region and the sectors, think about the best places with less impact in the territory? ” How not to waterproof the entire site and, at the same time, allow the development of vegetation and biodiversity (including agriculture)?
At this point the president of the region can be sure, as the project foresees “An agricultural parcel oriented towards the collective restoration of the territory”.
It remains to be seen how large this surface will be. And finally, which technologies to use and with what profitability?

We are clearly choosing the future. We have to fit it well (…) but we have to progress.

Alain Rousset

Today we cannot be content with simply covering the roofs“he continues.”This is not the answer. So are projects really big like this? Is it the multiplication of projects of 50 hectares, 100 hectares etc…? Or is it, looking to the future of technologies, is it a site that can have all the tradeoffs (…) but that isn’t totally compact?

© MaxPPP

Opposition by Jean-Luc Gleyze

For now, the chairman of the departmental council of La Gironde is opposed to this project. “It’s the environmental paradox today: developing renewable energies and, at the same time, cutting 1000 hectares of forest, knowing that the forest is a lung that absorbs CO2 and that, therefore, it is an answer to environmental issues. So I think the subject is worth a real debate. », Continues the chosen one.

For me, I think there are other ways to dig besides cutting down the forest, 1000 hectares of forest, in particular to produce photovoltaics.

Jean-Luc Gleyze

Sometimes there is wasteland in the forest, such as old controlled landfills for household waste that could be reinvested in photovoltaic energy.“, suggests the president of the departmental council.
We cannot talk about the absence of soil artificialization and say that we are building photovoltaic energy in a forest. On the contrary, today, when you want to open a business in a community of rural communes or sometimes set up a project for public equipment, we ask you not to artificialize the soil. And so I think there is also a paradox in law enforcement (…)) “.

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

What is the role of public authorities in this environmental dynamic? ” Public authorities have a role to play. », Answers Jean-Luc Gleyze. “ But when we put photovoltaics in a college, that’s obviously one of the answers. When the parking lot at the Bordeaux exhibition center was covered with photovoltaics, this is one of the answers. So I believe that we have to look at how we can, in the municipalities, in the Department, in the Region and in 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 solutions can exist

All participants in this dossier have four months to raise all these issues during the public debate. The public opening meeting will be held on Thursday, September 9, at 6:30 pm, at the Palais des Congrès in Bordeaux Lac. Chantal Jouanno, president of the National Public Debate Commission and Fabienne Buccio, Mayor of the Region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. This meeting is public and therefore open to everyone. Register, Click here.

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