BayWa r.e. has transformed two unused, decommissioned air bases in France into solar parks and agricultural land for sheep farming.
Transformation of Fontenet military base for solar power
BayWa r.e. began the conversion of the Fontenet airfield in southwestern France a decade ago. Today, 80 hectares of the total 160 hectares at the former French, German and then American military base have been dedicated to the production of renewable energies or are in the process of being converted.
A first solar park, “Fontenet”, with a capacity of 12 MWp, has been in operation since 2014. A second solar park with a 14.7 MWp capacity is currently under construction and should be commissioned by the end of 2021. A third solar park is in the project stage in cooperation with a local semi-public company.
Over 80,000 solar panels and a cultural partnership
Following the successful repurposing of former military land at Fontenet, in 2020 BayWa r.e. began construction of the “Blueberry” solar park on a second disused airbase, La Martinerie, in central France. The 30MWp solar park, completed in February 2021, holds 87,552 solar panels and covers 35 hectares of the former military base which ceased operating in 2012.
BayWa r.e. established a partnership with the “Les Amis de la Martinerie” association with the aim of preserving the history of the site. As part of this partnership, BayWa r.e. intends to contribute to the restoration of the barracks found during the construction works.
A collaborative approach to local agriculture
Demonstrating its all-round commitment to the energy, ecological and agricultural transitions, BayWa r.e. is also supporting local agricultural activities through a collaborative approach by inviting shepherds to raise sheep on its land at Fontenet and La Martinerie.
Benoît Roux, Solar Director at BayWa r.e. France, explains that the approach is not just a maintenance service, but also for agricultural production: “It's not just about grazing sheep on the land. We are committed to long-term contracts which allow for meaningful agricultural benefits from renewable energy projects.”
He adds that this agricultural approach protects local employment as well as the environment: “The use of machinery and the pollution it creates is reduced, allowing us to optimise our maintenance services. In addition to building biodiversity and protecting local flora and fauna, this will grow local businesses and employment.”
The solar farms are designed with the agriculture in mind from the outset. Water sources were created ahead of the arrival of the animals and after the installation of the panels the grasslands were sown with plant varieties suitable for sheep grazing, in collaboration with the farmers.