Justice authorizes two photovoltaic power plants in the Landes forest, against the advice of the prefecture

Justice authorizes two photovoltaic power plants in the Landes forest, against the advice of the prefecture
Justice authorizes two photovoltaic power plants in the Landes forest, against the advice of the prefecture

The Landes forest is mainly an intensive monoculture of pine.
Arcachonphoto.com / stock.adobe.com

The Bordeaux administrative court of appeal found that the refusals of clearance authorizations issued by state services were not sufficiently justified.

Le Figaro Bordeaux

Should we cut down forests to produce solar energy? Along with energy sobriety, the massive development of renewable energies is an essential lever to fight against climate change. Just like preserving healthy forests, which can be both carbon sinks and reserves for biodiversity. The installation of photovoltaic plants in forested areas therefore seems counterintuitive. In the South-West, however, the courts have just given the green light to two controversial projects in the Landes forest.

In two decisions rendered on March 21, 2024, the administrative court of appeal of Bordeaux “deems illegal the refusals of clearance authorization opposed to the two companies carrying out the projects”. In 2018, these two requests for clearance authorization were made to the prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne, for a plot of land of 21.6 hectares located in Pindères, and to that of Gironde, for a plot of land of 36 hectares. in Lucmau. In both cases, state services “refused to grant all of these requests based on the existence of a fire risk”explains the court.

Fire risks

The court recognizes “that the land concerned is located in a sector classified as “high level 4” of sensitivity to fire by the interdepartmental plan for protecting the forest against fire”but notes that “the projects integrate all the preventive measures recommended by the departmental fire and rescue services”with in particular the desire to create cleared areas fifty meters deep around the periphery of future electrical installations, water reserves and isolation devices for electricity production elements.

According to the administrative court of appeal, these measures would therefore allow “to bring the fire risk to a low level” and specifies that the administration has not provided “an element enabling the risk to be characterized”. Six years after these requests for clearing, the court therefore annuls the refusals of authorization for clearing as well as the refusal of the building permit in the commune of Lucmau, and “orders the prefect of Gironde to issue the requested authorizations within four months”.

“We don’t save the climate by razing forests”

These two solar parks, although modest in size, echo the Horizeo project, a titanic project which plans to raze 700 hectares of forest to install a photovoltaic park around twenty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Despite reforestation operations – a contested carbon offsetting process, often assimilated to “greenwashing” – Horizeo could be the last solar park of such scale to see the light of day, having managed to slip through a loophole in the law for the acceleration of the production of renewable energies, which now prohibits photovoltaic installations requiring land clearance of more than 25 hectares.

Horizeo is strongly criticized, in particular by the socialist president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, Alain Rousset, who judges this project “obsolete” and questions its impact on the objective of zero net artificialization. “We don’t save the climate by razing forests”, summarizes the regional environmental group. In Bordeaux, the environmentalist mayor Pierre Hurmic is also the ardent promoter of a “solar city”but without destroying green spaces. “We need to install solar panels where the ground is already artificial”insists the elected official, who plans to install 60,000 m² of photovoltaic panels and achieve 41% energy autonomy in public buildings by 2026.

#French

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