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60 cents a kilowatt hour

French farmer commissions the second largest solar power plant in Bretagne

6 July 2009. On 1 July, Rémy Bresteaux, a farmer in Lassay-les-Chateaux, a village in the northwest of France , commissioned a solar power plant with a capacity of 205 kilowatts – the second largest in Bretagne . Bresteaux ordered the plant from the French system supplier Solar Diffusion. The company integrated more than a thousand solar modules on the farm’s two chicken-stall roofs.


In France systems which are integrated into buildings earn an especially high feed-in tariffs. The tariff currently paid for power fed into the grid is 60 euro-cents for every kilowatt hour (see table).

To finance and operate the solar plant Bresteaux and his wife founded the company Solar Production Lassay together with Solar Diffusion. “For investments of roughly 100,000 euros and more it is more attractive in France for farmers to operate their solar power plants as corporate entities,” explained Michel Milhavet a Solar Diffusion employee.

SolarMax: Quality and Service

Central converters made by Sputnik Engineering AG convert the power of the solar modules into alternating current for the grid. Solar Diffusion was already installing SolarMax converters back in 2007. “Sputnik is our main converter supplier. We were always quite satisfied with the product quality and the service of the team,” declare Florian Dalibard of Solar Diffusion.

In Lassay the company installed transformerless central converters of the new S series with capacities of 20 and 35 kilowatts. The devices attain a maximum efficiency of up to 96.8 percent and weigh only 98 and 125 kilograms respectively. The operators monitor the system with Sputnik’s internet-based data logger MaxWeb. The all-round care-free package MaxControl guarantees the smooth-running of the solar plant for over 20 years.

500 Visitors on Open House Day

In early April the project partners invited the public to an Open House Day at the farm. The 500 visitors included manufacturers, suppliers, customers, journalists, regional politicians and bank representatives. “As a second source of income, photovoltaics is ideal for farmers,” said Daniel Bellanger, the managing director of Solar Diffusion. “The installation here in Lassay is the second largest of its type in Bretagne and a good example of how a farmer can improve his income by using solar power.”

Converters made by Sputnik have already been installed on many agricultural buildings. In France the Swiss manufacture is one of the leading suppliers. Last year, in response to the enormous demand, the company founded the French subsidiary Sputnik Engineering France S.A.R.L in Paris . “Since then we have enormously expanded our network of partners in France ,” explained Daniel Freudiger, the managing director for France .

Sun, Wind and Wood

Interview with Rémy Bresteaux, farmer and solar plant operator from Lassay-les-Châteaux

What role do renewable energies play in your life?

Before I began breeding chickens, I worked as an electrician. Therefore, I am sensitive regarding energy-related questions. Since the storm of the century in 1999, I began to really think about the changes in our climate and the warming of the earth. Back then I thought that one should use wind to produce energy rather than suffer under its power.

What motivated you to install a solar power plant?

I was not able to build a wind power plant on my farm, because my neighbours were opposed to it. So I searched for an alternative. Because I wanted to double the amount of my chickens, I had to build a second stall. It seemed quite interesting to me to cover both stall roofs with solar modules – especially since they point to the south and are free of shadows. Solar electricity is a completely renewable energy that is environmentally friendly, and is important for our planet and the future of our children. In addition, the use of photovoltaics is financially interesting.

Which other renewable energy sources do you use?

Along with the solar power plant, I installed a pellet heater. Earlier I heated with gas. Since my stall area doubled with the construction of the new building to 3,000 square metres, I have heated with wood pellets for the sake of the environment. In my community we founded the organisation SCIC Haute Mayenne Bois Energie, which manufactures wood pellets here on-site. That shortens the transport routes, which is also environmentally friendly.

Plant Data

205 kW
1,084 polycrystalline solar modules from Biohaus
SolarMax 35S (4x), SolarMax 20S (2x)
Pitch and Direction
pitch 20°, south
1 July 2009

Feed-in tariffs for grid-connected solar power plants in France in 2009, as well as the over seas departments and Corsica

Not building integrated
Building integrated
French Mainland
32.82 cents/kWh
60.17 cents/kWh
Overseas areas and Corsica
43.76 cents/kWh
60.17 cents/kWh

About Sputnik Engineering AG

Sputnik Engineering AG was founded in 1991 by Christoph von Bergen and Philipp Müller. Since then it has focused its activities exclusively on the development, sales and maintenance of inverters for grid-connected photovoltaic systems. With the SolarMax series, the company – headquartered in Biel , Switzerland – offers a highly diverse product range of string inverters for single family houses and central inverters for solar power plants. Thanks to its many years of experience and constant optimisation of its products, Sputnik has developed devices distinguished by their state-of-the-art technology, high quality, reliability, maximum yields and very good value for the money.

Sputnik Engineering currently has around 250 employees at its Swiss headquarters as well in its subsidiaries in Neuhausen (Germany ), Madrid (Spain ) and Milan (Italy ), and Paris ( France ). This year they will produce SolarMax string and central inverters with a total output of 420 megawatts. Sputnik opened the new production facility for SolarMax string inverters in February of this year.

Sputnik Engineering AG
Höheweg 85
CH – 2502 Biel
Tel.: +41 (0) 32 346 5600
Fax. +41 (0) 32 346 5609

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