[VIDEO] Solar with storage: hybrid power plants dependent on lithium

Composed of photovoltaic panels connected to a battery storage system, hybrid solar power plants are emerging from the ground. Their business model is strongly linked to lithium, an alkali metal in high demand today.

In the town of Mennetou-sur-Cher, in the Centre-Val-de-Loire region, a large ground-mounted solar power plant, covering 9 hectares, has just been inaugurated on the site of a ZAC which had not been ultimately never really developed. The particularity of this plant is its energy storage unit. Several containers filled with a multitude of small interconnected batteries which will make it possible to store the equivalent of what the solar power plant produces for one hour. The latter has a power of 8.8 MWp and the storage system, 3.75 MWp, which would meet the electrical needs of approximately 8,000 inhabitants.

This type of installation already existed in certain French islands, in Corsica, in Reunion, but this is the first time in metropolitan France. Proof of the fall in battery manufacturing costs, in particular thanks to the industrialization of electric cars. But concretely what is the interest of being able to store one hour of energy? This makes it possible to provide services to the national electricity grid and it is sufficiently profitable to make the system profitable, as explained Mathieu Lassagne, in the video report, the general manager of ZE Energy, thecompany that developed this project.

And everything is done via an automatic program, an artificial intelligence that interprets the weather forecast, current production and network needs.

This power plant makes it possible to resell 1 MWh to EDF at 52 euros on a 20-year contract. It’s very competitive, whereas on the wholesale market, at the moment, the MWh is sold 10 times more expensive”, adds the manager. So much so that among the next projects to be developed, ZE Energy intends to sell energy directly to the end consumer, from sandstone to sandstone, “We are talking about big consumers, big companies. We signed last year with Soregies [fournisseur de gaz et d’électricité de la Vienne] an electricity purchase contract for our future power stations which will be developed in this area. Electricity will therefore be produced and marketed in a short circuit”a form of collective self-consumption on the scale of a territory, which represents a real turning point in terms of the financing of solar power plants.

There remains the problem of lithium. This alkali metal has been produced for the past 10 years mainly in Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. The sharp increase in demand, due to the development of the electric vehicle industry, makes the price of lithium volatile and fluctuating. This undermines the stability of supply chains. But Mathieu Lassagne is reassured to see “that a number of mines will come into being in one to two years. We have strong resources in Europe. » Of course, they still need to be able to develop. This type of mine don’t get good press. Indeed in Serbia, a mine project led to strong citizen mobilization and the country had to give up. There is also a giant mine project in Portugal also suspended. France also has deposits, particularly in Alsace, in the Massif Central and probably in Brittany. The various impacts on the environment are again likely to generate several outcry.

Article published on October 21, 2022

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[VIDEO] Solar with storage: hybrid power plants dependent on lithium

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