Inauguration of a solar power plant on the former storage basins of a sugar refinery!

In Sermaize-les-Bains, in the Marne département, the renewable energy producer Urbasolar, the Côtes de Champagne and Val de Saulx community of municipalities, and the municipality of Sermaize-les-Bains have today inaugurated an 11.3 MWp photovoltaic power plant in order to repurpose this former sugar factory (once the third-largest in France) as a renewable energy production source.

In the presence of Mr. Bruyen, Chairman of the département, Mr. Tramontana and Mr. Guichon, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Côtes de Champagne and Val de Saulx community of municipalities, Mr. Yacoubi, Mayor of Sermaize-les-Bains and Mr. Attolini, CFO Urbasolar.

The new sustainable life of an old sugar refinery

The land that was once used for settling, lagooning, and spreading sludge produced by a very old sugar factory-refinery dating back to 1854, now houses a photovoltaic plant, through which industrial wasteland has been reclaimed as a source of renewable electricity production.

In 1884, this sugar factory-refinery became the third-largest sugar factory in France. It was operated until 1973 and completely discontinued operations in 1981 following a major fire.

This was followed by the cessation of the settling activity in the storage basins, which were gradually filled in with materials from the industrial platform until the end of the 1990s.

The site was handed over to the Côtes de Champagne and Val de Saulx community of municipalities in 2018. Having become a degraded site, it met the criteria for the installation of a solar power plant. The community of municipalities seized this opportunity alongside the Urbasolar group, a photovoltaic expert.

The solar power plant will have an output of 11.3 MWp and produce 12,330 MWh of electricity each year, the equivalent of the electricity consumption of around 6,000 people.

Biodiversity preservation issues

Being highly sensitive to environmental issues during the construction of its solar structures, the Urbasolar group has paid particular attention to causing no harm to the biodiversity present around and on the site, even promoting its development.

During the construction phase, the work schedule was adapted to avoid disturbing the identified fauna and flora. Areas of wet reed beds, suitable for the habitat of many species, have been left alone and will be maintained by the group.

Newly planted hedges and fruit trees also reinforce the ecological diversity of the site and an area for replanting fireweed (plants) has been established to promote the reproduction of a protected species of insect.

Lastly, several bats and amphibian shelters, called hibernacula, have been installed to help these species thrive.

While this photovoltaic power plant reinforces Urbasolar’s status as an expert delivering high-performance structures regardless of the nature of the site, it also testifies to the local authorities’ commitment to energy transition.

Inauguration of the Sermaize-les-Bains Solar Power Plant – Photo Credit Urbasolar