France added 176 MW of new solar on the mainland in the first three months of the year, according to the 34th edition of the Observatory of photovoltaic solar energy report published by thinktank France Territoire Solaire.
A quarter marked by the arrival of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the nation saw the new-solar generation capacity figure fall from the previous three-month window, when 205 MW had been connected.
“With 176 MW connected, this first quarter of 2020 shows a second consecutive decrease in volumes after an already disappointing fourth quarter of 2019,” said Antoine Huard, president of France Territoire Solaire. “The promising trend that we were able to detect in the second and third quarters of 2019 has, therefore, not been confirmed.”
The Covid effect
With the public health crisis interrupting the supply of solar power equipment at the start of the year and a Covid-19 shutdown closing PV sites from mid-March, Huard cited the extraordinary situation as the chief explanation for the quarterly slump.
The thinktank noted growth in the volume of medium-sized rooftop arrays – with generation capacities of 9-100 kW – and of larger, 250 kW-1 MW roof systems, with returns of 66 MW and 6 MW, respectively. “The medium-size rooftop segment is returning to growth compared to the previous quarter and shows a very high level of new connections,” stated France Territoire Solaire.
However, sub-9 kW residential installations, 100-250 kW commercial rooftops and PV projects with more than 1 MW of capacity all suffered reductions in volume, quarter on quarter, according to the thinktank, with roll-out of 23 MW, 15 MW and 63 MW, respectively.
The large scale solar segment in particular, said France Territoire Solaire, was “marked by a sharp decline, which can be due to the cessation of Asian production of certain components such as modules and inverters, due to the health crisis.”
Growth was flat for self-consumption systems, with almost 6,500 added from January to the end of March although the total power capacity of such systems connected has fallen slightly on the previous two quarters. France reached 71,261 self-consumption installations during the first quarter for total capacity of 283 MW. Around 80% of those arrays had a generation capacity of 1-6 kW and some 96% of self-consumption systems operate under net-metering rules.
Solar accounted for just 1.2% of French electricity consumption at the end of February, according to the France Territoire Solaire report.