Citizen activists take on 'destructive' solar power plants in France's Provence region

Citizen activists in southeastern France’s Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence region have been campaigning for two years against the growing number of solar power parks in a protected natural area around the Lure mountain. The local authorities, and the parks' investors, claim the plants are “essential” projects in the fight against climate change, and in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal. But the activists claim these projects are “destructive” for biodiversity and the landscape.

A few hundred metres above the commune of Cruis, in the Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence region, Sylvie Bitterlin, a 62-year-old actress, stands in front of the security fence of a brand-new solar farm.

“Look, they've destroyed everything,” she says.

On the 17-hectare site, the garrigue or scrubland of Provence has been replaced by several thousand solar panels.

The project has been under construction for several months and is nearly finished. According to the operator, Boralex, a Canadian renewable energy company, the site will generate 14.9 megawatt-peak hours of electricity, enough to power a community of 12,000 residents.

Boralex’s managing director, Jean-Christophe Paupe, claims the park makes “an indispensable contribution ... at a time when France is lagging behind in the development of renewable energies”.

But as the project nears completion, Bitterlin makes no secret of her frustration and anger.

Since 2019, she and about twenty other members of the local citizens group Elzéard, Lure en résistance have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent the plant from going ahead.

“Initially, the park was designed to cover several dozen hectares, but its size was reduced to take account of this issue,” explains Paupe.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

Read also:
France drops renewables targets, prioritises nuclear in new energy bill
EU outlines ‘Green Deal’ to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050
Germany's von der Leyen seeks second term as head of the EU Commission