Interview with Roger Meï, mayor of Gardanne since 1977, a town of 20,000 inhabitants and the historic capital of the mining basin of Provence.
“I am a mayor who has had a real ecological approach for 40 years. We lived through the closing of the coal mines and the ambition of Gardanne is to be an energy positive town with no greenhouse gas emissions. With biogas from the municipal dump, we now produce electrical current. The second project was to use the waste heaps of the former mines to install a ground- mounted photovoltaic power plant. My philosophy couldn’t be simpler: all human activity produces pollution so both aspects of the problem need to be managed: the activity and the pollution. I am a social ecologist, which translates into thinking of the people.”
Located on former mining waste sites, which have been the property of the town since September 2013, the photovoltaic plant does not generate any pollution and produces electricity that guarantees supply for nearly 5,000 households. With its sunny location, Gardanne has climactic capital that allows it to fully participate in the energy transition.
“There are no disadvantages since this ground-mounted plant has been installed on a site which we had enclosed with fencing, where people were not allowed to enter. I haven’t had any negative feedback, there are no neighbors, this location is really isolated. Urbasolar managed the constraints of this particular location and land well as it is a site where nothing can be excavated.”
Roger Meï explains the municipality’s desire to be well ahead of ecological problems with, for example, the creation of local food networks to supply the school cafeterias. He adds with a touch of pride that the town even produces its own town honey.
“Photovoltaic energy is being developed and it’s an excellent thing. Besides the power plant, we have installed photovoltaic panels on large roof areas. In terms of Urbasolar: we could not have found better than to work with their well-named director Arnaud Mine; for mining country, that’s pretty neat, isn’t it? We would be happy to welcome any mayors interested in coming to visit.”
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