52MW solar-storage for French island territories

Solar energy plus storage systems are to be installed on French islands to maximise use of the power generated.
Published: Tue 12 Jul 2016

While debate rages on what applications of energy storage are commercially viable, islands and remote areas have been identified as an attractive market for storage. The primary reason is of course the high costs of generation in these environments, with their heavy reliance on imported fuels. Coupled with a solar or wind energy system, the storage system allows the use of the generated energy to be maximized.

Other reasons, highlighted in IRENA’s energy storage roadmap, are weak interconnections and lack of flexible power sources and thus few alternatives for renewable integration; and the limited geographical reach of systems enabling storage to provide several services with a single device, thus improving the business case. [Engerati-Storage Rollout Mapped To 2030]

The roadmap quotes an estimate of a worldwide energy storage capacity potential of 5.3GWh on small islands and an estimated 250GW of the existing 400GW of installed diesel generators that could be replaced by renewable power generation technologies.

French island energy storage opportunity

To exploit this opportunity, the French government last year launched a tender for 50MW of solar energy with storage – 25MW of rooftop and 25MW ground-mounted and shade structures – for Corsica and other overseas island territories.

This has resulted in awards for 33 projects for 52MW of solar energy on Corsica (8 projects for 18MW), Guadeloupe (6 projects, 9MW), Guyana (2 projects, 5.2MW), Martinique (8 projects, 11.1MW) and La Réunion (9 projects, 8.5MW).

According to a ministry of the environment, energy and sea statement, the aim of the projects is to improve the smoothness and predictability of solar production and encourage producers to produce when demand is high, thereby supporting the integration of renewable energy in isolated grids.

The projects may benefit from feed-in tariffs at a weighted electricity price of €204/MWh, which "is competitive with the full costs production in non-interconnected zones", the statement continues.

The projects range in size from 310kW on a rooftop up to the largest at 5MW on a parking shade. When completed they are expected to generate €140 million in investment and produce 70GWh of clean electricity each year.

French island energy storage projects

These aren’t the first energy storage projects in the French overseas territories. The DOE Global Energy Storage Database lists three projects in Corsica, one in Guiana, two in Martinique and one in La Réunion. Of these five are in operation and two in development.

Interestingly, the oldest of these is a hydrogen storage project, which was developed as a test platform alongside a solar PV system by the University of Corsica in 2012. The other projects are battery-based, as the newly funded projects also are expected to be.

Energy storage in islands and remote areas

Energy storage in islands and remote areas was identified as a priority area for action in the IRENA roadmap.

Specific actions required for the islands include:

• Facilitating financing by engaging policy makers and designing innovative financing mechanisms. Currently the capital requirements are a major barrier for these communities due to their limited resources.

• Creating local value chains, including a local human capacity capability, to develop and maintain sustainable systems

• Building up a global database of projects to allow sharing of information and experiences [Engerati-Storage A Global Technology]

• Developing tools for the guidance of policy makers for project assessment and simulation.

Islands are also proving important test sites for new energy storage technologies. For example, the Portuguese island of Graciosa is the site of the first megawatt-scale renewable energy-storage system, while St Paul Island in remote Alaska is demonstrating a flywheel storage project. [Engerati-“Graciosa” -A Game Changing Renewable Energy Project and St. Paul Island Project To Demonstrate Flywheel Energy Storage In Remote Alaska]

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