Three utility-scale ground-mounted PV plants situated in adjacent towns in southwest France were among the winning projects of the first call for tenders in France in 2011 for ground-mounted PV installations of more than 250 kWp. The French government’s objective was to increase the production of renewable energy in France, build a French solar industry, and encourage innovative technologies such as solar trackers.
The plants known as Ygos, Garein and Luxey, were developed and are owned by Neoen, a French and internationally active green power plant developer and clean energy producer. Boygues Energies & Services is responsible for the plants’ design, deployment and operation. Exosun supplied and commissioned the Exotrack HZ horizontal single axis tracker and support services. And Schneider Electric supplied the transformers and inverters.
Construction of the three plants was hindered by heavy rainfall and high water levels, as three of the four plans were installed on sandy, flat ground. The land had previously been devastated by storm Klaus in 2009, so the installation was actually a rehabilitation of the area. Paul-François Croisille, Chief Operating Officer of Neoen commented, "Periods of heavy rainfall coincided with the densest stages of building operations, making it impossible to move construction machinery. But this issue has been efficiently solved without affecting the scheduled technical completion dates, thanks to the installation of drains in Luxey and Garein plants."
The Luxey plant (shown at top) is located on a small land surface (13 ha or 32 acres), which presented additional challenging work conditions that included limited storage areas, access to the plant, etc. The heavy rains also required installation of over 5 km of drains. Yet the plant was completed in 7 months, including 60 single-axis trackers and 27,208 Yingli modules.
The Garein PV power plant, commissioned in October 2014, has a capacity of 10.1 MWp, covers 18ha of forest land devastated by storm Klaus in 2009.
The Garein plant took 8 months to complete, with only 2 months for the tracker installation. The plant has 55 single-axis trackers and 30,954 SunPower monocrystalline modules. Due to the time constraints on the tracker installation, five installation teams (80 people) were trained in order to complete the installation on time.
The Ygos PV power plant, was commissioned in October 2014.
The Ygos plant, which is on a hilly site, did not suffer from the high water from the rainfall, took just 7 months to complete. It has 48 single-axis trackers and 21,318 Yingli polycrystalline solar modules.
The tracking system
The Exosun trackers were mounted at a rate of 550 man hours per MWp or 4 man hours per table. Since commissioning four months ago, the plant operators have found that availability on the trackers is 99.8%. Croisille noted that Exosun was a French start up highly involved in the R&D of solar innovative technologies, and proposed a global solution including the development, the engineering and the supply of trackers as well as training programs and technical supports for the installation, maintenance and operation of the trackers.” Neoen had identified Exosun as a relevant technology provider since 2010 and worked extensively with Exosun to understand the operational, financial and contractual impact of choosing this solution. We felt comfortable to engineer our plants using the HZ single-axis tracker when the tender was issued,” Croisille said.
Exosun also provided customized support services including:
- Tracker installation training for the installation subcontractors
- Technical support to Bouygues Energies & Services during tracker assembly and installation
- Maintenance training to Bouygues Energies & Services (learn how to carry out preventive and corrective maintenance actions)
- Support to Bouygues Energies & Services in the remote operation of the trackers
Total installed power of the combined plants is 25.4MWp and total annual production is 33,350 MWh. According to Croisille, “The performance ratio is above expectations.”
Photo at top: The Luxey PV power plant, commissioned in October 2014, has a capacity of 8.5 MWp, covers 13ha of forest land devastated by storm Klaus.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today