New Law: 50%+ Solar Power Over Parking Lots In France

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France has stormed into a new era of solar with a new law just passed requiring a massive increase in solar canopies. The country’s new law requires that that large parking lots have at least 50% of their lot covered in solar canopies.

Naturally, this doesn’t apply to lots with something like 6, 8, or 10 parking spaces. (Not that I’d have a problem with that.) It applies to parking lots with 80 spaces or more.

One of my first thoughts was that this only applied to new parking lots, which would be good, but would clearly limit the potential solar power capacity and benefit massively. However, the law applies to both new and existing parking lots of that size.

The bill was approved Tuesday of this week. It goes into effect in July 2023. Parking lots with >400 spaces will have to be in compliance by 2026, while parking lots with 80–400 spaces have a deadline of 2028 to comply.

Ignoring the laggards for a minute, consider this: many of the parking lot owners who are now going to be required to do this, won’t be inherently opposed to the idea. Many probably didn’t consider the option, or didn’t dig into the costs balanced with the potential savings or revenue. Once pushed to look at the option or to crunch the numbers, many parking lot owners will probably find the idea appealing and choose to cover far more than 50% of their lot, perhaps even 100%.

It’s anyone’s guess what the actual implementation level is going to be. It will presumably be solidly above 50% but well below 100%. One analysis reportedly found that the requirement would add up to 8% of France’s current power capacity to the grid. That would be the equivalent of 10 nuclear power plants.

“If half of France’s parking lots are covered by solar panels, they’ll have an installed capacity of between 6.75 gigawatts and 11.25 gigawatts, at a cost of between $8.7 billion and $14.6 billion, according to the official analysis of the legislation,” the Washington Post writes. “France’s 56 nuclear power plants each have a capacity of slightly over 1 gigawatt on average — and the one under construction in Flamanville has ballooned in cost to $14 billion, according to the latest estimate — roughly the same as the entire solar expansion.”

But that’s not all! Apart from the parking lot solar canopy requirement, the new law reportedly “makes it easier to build solar panels alongside highways and eases restrictions on wind power.”

It appears that France, long a passionate climate leader, realizes that its nuclear power fleet is somewhat of a hindrance or challenge now, and that new nuclear power is ridiculously expensive and basically out of the question.

“There is a paradox. Though our electricity production is one of the most carbon-free in Europe, we are still behind in the development of renewable energies. This bill intends to resolve this contradiction,” Damien Adam, “a French politician of La République En Marche! who has been serving as a member of the French National Assembly since the 2017 elections,” said to his colleagues in the French National Assembly in January while pushing for the bill.

Tip of the hat to DailyKos for the story. To read more from original French reporting, or a Google translation of it, go here.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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