A guided process of acceptance by the general public of innovation
Interview with Daniel Boyer, mayor of Aigaliers since 2001, village of 500 inhabitants near Uzès in the Gard region.
Inaugurated at the end of May, 2016, this next generation ground-mounted solar power plant was born of the shared engagement, starting in 2009, of Daniel Boyer, his municipal council, and the village’s population. “We said to residents: here is what we would like to do. What do you think? Even from the first public meetings there was support. At the time, we recieved many proposals and, in the face of so many possibilities, we decided to launch a European call for offers, even though it was not an obligation. Before beginning the project, we were sure to have the approval and participation of the inhabitants and that the vision was shared.” The community received twenty four proposals of which three were selected, including Urbasolar’s. Daniel Boyer is insistent about the idea of preparation, including research about the support from residents for the project and updating urban planning guidelines before beginning consultations. “We wanted to choose a company who would work within our expectations and requests. Now, we know that we made the right decision.” A surface of twenty-five hectares was necessary for the installation of the solar power plant in the middle of a wooded area, which needed first to be cleared.
The municipality made use a traditional right: estovers. Parcels which were marked off by the national forestry office of France (ONF) were attributed through a lottery system to residents who then cut the holm oaks themselves. It was another way to involve the village residents in the project. Located eleven kilometers from the electricity company’s (ERDF) source substation, the solar plant has integrated cable ducts along this connection length to the substation which will house fiber optic cables to bring high-speed internet to the area. In this way, the community is already planning for the future in partnership with the Gard region. “As a mayor and as a citizen, I am convinced that nuclear energy has had its time and that we must quickly stop using it because the dismantling of plants and storage of waste will cost us dearly. I am not criticizing nuclear power, we needed it, but today, for the energy transition, everyone has a part to play. Tomorrow, energy will be locally produced and consumed.”