Smart Regions heads to the French Vercors to see how one small Alpine village is producing enough renewable energy to meet the power demands of the local areas.
Alpine regions suffer more blackouts than any other. But an isolated valley in the French Vercors is bucking that trend thanks to a micro-grid which enables the electricity to be generated locally.
The system supplies 38 families including David Vieux’s farm which is fitted with solar panels and is part of a network known as Alpgrids - a European project that aims to improve energy supply to isolated Alpine areas.
David says the new system helps guarantee the power supply and reduce price volatility.
"With the normal electricity grid, there are sometimes problems with the power. By anticipating local production, it’s possible we’ll have no more blackouts in the future."
In addition to France, Alpgrids is supporting several local pilot projects in Alpine areas in four other EU countries - Italy, Germany, Austria and Slovenia.
The total cost of the initiative is 1.88 million euros, of which 1.59 million comes from the European Cohesion Policy. Altogether, the project has 12 partners.
Some of the pilot projects are able to operate autonomously without having to connect to the main grid, however in France, legal requirements mean that’s not possible.
Energy provider Compagnie Nationale du Rhone (CNR) is a partner in the project. It’s in charge of ensuring the best energy balance between the micro-grid and the national network to maximise economic efficiency.
Innovation Projects Manager for CNR, Guillaume Bontron told Euronews: "Local energy projects like this work by bringing people together and pooling the energy that’s generated. Our goal is not to create a small isolated Gallic village. This is a way to have local energy that can eventually ease pressure on the national grid, by providing a solution to problems that might occur.”
Six villages in the Vercors valley currently benefit from the micro-grid project. The next stage is to fit a former 12th century monastery turned cultural centre with solar panels as well as other sites in the local area. However, those driving the project have much more ambitious plans for the future, both in France and across Europe.