France Mandates Solar Roofs for Commercial Zones

LONDON — Recently passed legislation in France has mandated that the roofs of all new buildings in commercial areas must be so-called green roofs, which are at least partially covered in either solar modules or with living plants.

As well as potentially delivering a boost to installed solar capacity across the country, green roofs provide a thermal insulating effect and moderate rain run-off, while also boosting biodiversity.

Though more limited in scope than originally envisaged by environmental groups — the law only requires partial (50 percent) coverage of commercial buildings while the green movement wanted the entire roof to be covered — it does at least signal a willingness to engage with renewable energy policy issues by the government, which has seen solar development in the country effectively stall over the last few years.

French installed PV capacity figures have shown something of a modest recovery after two years of decline following a shift away from a feed-it tariff scheme to competitive tenders.

In February, energy minister Segolene Royale launched a new call for tenders for photovoltaic power installations of 100 to 250 kWp for a total power of 120 MW in three tranches of 40 MW. Meanwhile, in a bid to reinvigorate the domestic PV sector the government has revised the feed-in tariff for projects up to 36 kW.

According to recent government figures, the country installed 386 MW of solar PV in the first half of 2014 — a close to 60 percent increase over the equivalent period of 2013 — but still significantly down on the 1 GW+ 2011 figures.

Indeed, some observers have expressed the view that while the commercial roof-top measures are a step in the right direction, such a development will yield limited breakthroughs for solar PV capacity in France.

Lead image: Seculum plants. Credit: Shutterstock.


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