In what context did Akuo emerge on the French and global market and what is the current footprint of the company?
Twenty years ago, the total installed capacity of wind in France was 112 MW. One year later, when we started the company (which was named Perfect Wind back then), we built the largest wind farm which gave an output of 57 MW - one third of the whole wind installed capacity in France. In 2006, when utilities started to understand the importance of renewable energy, we sold Perfect Wind France in order to have access to capital and expand our footprint. As a result, Akuo was born from the ashes in 2007, and today we are operating in 30 countries across five continents.
Today, we have an installed base of 1,4 GW and in the next 12 months plan to add an additional 2 GW though a series of projects that are now in the financing and construction phase. Besides solar, wind and hydro, we are also investing in storage solutions because these are the key to make the grid more stable and regulate energy frequency. The digital tools that we use allow us to install more renewable energy all over the world while also monitoring and simulating consumption in different scenarios. The ultimate goal that we follow at Akuo is to create a decentralized way to produce renewable energy.
You have been in the industry for an extensive period of time, what are some of the most notable projects that you have worked on?
One project which was key in the history of the Group is in Reunion Island, where ten years ago we had the groundbreaking idea to add batteries to the solar production capacity to avoid interruptions caused by clouds or overclocking of the grid. When pushing to introduce more solar energy into the grid in highly populated countries, you must avoid conflicts in the usage of land, so in 2007 we coined the concept of "Agrinergie®". Through this system, the production of energy and agriculture can co-exist peacefully on the same plot of land. In Southern France, where hail was destroying the fruit production, we covered the apricot trees with our solar panels and thus helped mitigate the danger. Although back then we were seen very much like crazy visionaries, nowadays this method is widely used across the world.
In order to preserve the aesthetic of residential buildings, in 2008 we built the largest integrated roof in Southern France that was using appropriately colored solar tiles instead of the classic thick panels. The products became known as Sunstyle® and they are now equipping the new headquarters of Google in California in the project named Dragonscale. We are always trying to use the resources around us at their full potential, so, near Avignon, we developed in 2019 the largest solar floating project in Europe inside an abandoned flooded quarry.
What do you believe are the top challenges in the path of developing renewable energy globally and what is the best way to overcome them?
Permitting is the toughest challenge we need to overcome right now because we need a sometimes-frustrating number of documents to be able to actually build a renewable energy plant. Moreover, we are always respectful of biodiversity and social rules, so we need to always find the best ways to work around these. Luckily, governments are starting to observe that this process is taking way too long and are passing exception laws to accelerate the permitting. For example, in North Macedonia where we have under development a 450 MW plant, a new law was released to streamline the process. France just published a note to the local state representatives (Préfets) to accelerate on permitting for renewable energies. This is a very encouraging signal!
Are you optimistic about the evolution of the global transmission and distribution system?
For many years renewables sources have been qualified as alternative energy but nowadays they have become the only way to offer long-term price predictability to customers. If we want to tackle the energy price increase in the world, we need to ramp up the proportion of renewable energy in the grid.
Akuo is not only a commercial company but also a partner to the grid operators, our goal being to always collaborate with them and use our expertise to make things better. In Mali, where we built a 50 MW solar power plant, we worked closely with the national energy company on finding ways to integrate such a big quantity of energy into their high voltage line. There is an absolute need to reinforce the grid across European countries as well, this is the number one challenge we are all facing, and policy makers must prioritize it.
- Share on: