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China energy giant CGN strikes 1.6b euro French solar deal

[BORDEAUX] Energy giant China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) said Thursday it plans to invest 1.6 billion euros (S$2.2 billion) over five years in a French firm which produces photovoltaic panels for solar power.

The agreement, which is set to create up to 3,000 jobs, "is for a minimum 1 gigawatt (of power) over five years," Johnny Schlosmacher, director of Bordeaux-based firm Inovia Concept Développement (ICD), told AFP after inking the deal with CGN's European wing.

The partners will work to roll out the technology to be installed on buildings owned by supermarkets, services groups and agricultural and horticultural societies looking to construct hangars, greenhouses, sheds or other outbuildings.

Earlier this year, China's state-owned CGN reached agreement with French giant EDF Energy to participate in the construction of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Britain.

In France, iIn exchange for shared operational costs, ICD will compile technical studies and building construction charges.

"The investor receives payment through the energy produced by the installation" which will be sold on to EDF for between 9 and 13,5 cents per kWh, according to Mr Schlosmacher.

A hangar fited out with solar panels produces some 100 kWh, or some 1,250 hours of energy on average per year, Mr Schlosmacher estimates.

Created in 2012 and employing 23 staff and 70 freelance technical workers, ICD already has around 1,800 farm depots producing some 140 megawatts of power nationwide, but bringing in the Chinese allows them considerably to upscale their ambitions.

"We are currently working on 150 projects a month - the target is to move to 300," said Mr Schlosmacher.

Solar power has yet to take off in France to the extent it has in neighbouring Spain and Germany, but Thursday's announcement follows on the heels of the inauguration earlier this month of Europe's biggest solar farm south of Bordeaux emitting 300 megawatts of power on a 250 ha site.