A €34 million solar plus storage project has received funding under an innovative model, in the French territory of Réunion Island. The project has been funded under an arrangement which will see the system operator lock in an amount of electricity to be feed into the island’s grid in advance, to allow the renewable energy to integrate into the island’s existing generation mix.
Island grids worldwide continue to be at the leading edge of renewable energy plus battery development. This is especially the case of the island’s that are French territories, where high levels of renewable energy penetration call for storage solutions to compliment PV and wind capacity.
French PV developer and engineering firm kiloWattsol announced last Friday that it has completed the technical due diligence, to allow for the funding of a 9MW PV plus battery installation on the Réunion Island. A 9MW PV array will be coupled with 9MW of lithium-ion batteries.
The Project Bardzour is being developed by AKUO Energy, with kiloWattsol and NaturalPower developing a simulation tool, which will allow AKUO to predict how much electricity will be fed into the grid a day in advance. Penalties will be incurred if actual output does not meet predictions. The battery system will be used to either off take electricity generated by the PV on sunny days and top up production on cloudy days. This system has facilitated the funding of the project by a consortium of lenders including Natixis-Energeco, Agence Francaise du Développent and Caisse d’Epargne.
KiloWattsol’s founder and CEO Xavier Daval told Reneweconomy that in French Island territories, renewable energy penetration is approaching one third of total generation capacity. Because of this, France’s energy regulating body CRE requires that new renewable energy developments in these territories include a storage component, to facilitate grid integration.
Renewable energy development has historically been treated with caution in France, where even in legislation its intermittent nature has led to it being termed “fatale energie” – or fatal energy. Battery integration is therefore seen as being important to facilitate grid integration, particularly in mini-grids such as on French islands. French island or island territories include the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte, New Caledonia in the Pacific and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
“When you have 30% penetration of renewables, you have too much for the grid operator to have a backup,” said kiloWattsol’s Daval, “so beyond this point, any renewable project must be considered with batteries or some kind of storage system.” Daval and French renewable energy bodies have been advocating this situation to be considered by the government and the grid operator as an opportunity to roll out innovative battery solutions and build expertise in the emerging field for French companies.
“We have the chance and opportunity in France, with these regions, where this technology can be tested,” said Daval. “And that can be used as a platform to engineer these projects because we know that tomorrow, in Asia in Africa and in many other regions in the world, these mini grids will exist even on the mainland.”
The 9M Project Bardzour demonstrates this with the purpose-built simulation tool and storage solution helping to green light the project, despite the limitations of the island grid.
A new government tender for large-scale PV installations in France and its territories is expected to be announced in early 2014. The tender process in past has seen the adoption of a number of innovative approaches to PV development, including CPV, tracking technology and storage. The French Government has previously indicated that 2014 tenders will be worth 800 MW for large PV projects, with kiloWattsol’s Daval expecting a initial tranche, worth around 450 – 500 MW, to be opened in a matter of weeks.