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O Solaire: an innovative project that combines solar power, irrigation and biodiversity

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  • Project initiator: CNR
  • Partners: Syndicat Mixte d’Hydraulique Agricole du Rhône (SMHAR); Ecocean; Isara Lyon
  • Duration of project: launched in 2019
  • Cost of project: €450,000

Context of how the project emerged: 

Built in 1991 and since managed by the Syndicat Mixte d’Hydraulique Agricole du Rhône (SMHAR), the hill reservoir of Madone is the largest water reservoir of the irrigation network in the Millery-Mornant area, in the Lyon region (with a volume of 340,000 m3).    

Accessible to the inhabitants of the region, the reservoir is now a leisure and relaxation space in the midst of a verdant landscape that harbours angling, sports activities, an arboretum and hiking paths that can be taken on foot, by bicycle and on horseback.

By providing green and local electricity to aid agriculture while improving the conditions for the development of aquatic fauna adapted to the specific conditions of the lake and angling activities, Ô SOLAIRE brings together biodiversity, farming and renewable energies.


Strategy and  objectives

Ô SOLAIRE is a floating solar power project, located on the irrigation reservoir of Madone. Ô SOLAIRE innovates by combining photovoltaic electricity production with the development of aquatic biodiversity.

This project satisfies several objectives:

  1. Producing local renewable energy without affecting farmland.
  2. Promoting sustainable agriculture by fully integrating renewable energy production in the irrigation network.
  3. Perpetuating and protecting the aquatic population through the installation of fish shelters and by ensuring scientific environmental monitoring.
  4. Illustrating energy transition by explaining the operation of the platform by way of a learning path.
  5. Integrating solar power in a global, innovative and shared project.
  6. Making the users of the lake aware of renewable energies and the biodiversity of the site.


The project’s innovative characteristics



The platform is composed of modulable floats that carry photovoltaic panels (230 panels for a surface area of 2,500 m²). It was assembled on the banks, after which it was slipped into the water before being attached to an anchoring system and linked to the electricity grid.


Ô SOLAIRE participates in the exploitation of the existing irrigation network, and gives renewable energy new standing in the agricultural sector. With only 4% of the lake covered, the installed capacity of 230 kWp of solar power produces as much electricity as the 3 irrigation pumps of Madone consume in one year.


The lake of Madone is intended for irrigation and its water level varies as a function of the irrigation requirements of crops. Successively submerged and emerged, the banks of the lake remain free of any vegetation. This lack of vegetation impedes the development of the aquatic population. The fish shelters installed on Ô SOLAIRE will revive biodiversity by creating artificial habitats permanently available for aquatic species to breed and live in.

Results and perspectives

This projects has several types of advantage:

  • For fish fauna, the possibility to increase adult populations;
  • For the energy consumption of farms: in time, the energy produced by the panels will directly supply the irrigation pumps used to convey water to uplying farms. The water will therefore be raised at less cost, by renewable energy produced locally!
  • The lessons learned from this project will be put to use directly for much larger and more profitable projects.

How can this project be duplicated?


This project could be duplicated in a territory requiring energy for farms and the preservation of biodiversity.


Solution follow-up

One year later


How the project will be carried out 

The project has not encountered any major obstacles and, on the contrary, has received strong support from the locals (Villes de Mornant et Chabanières, communauté de communes du pays Mornantais (Copamo) ).

The monitoring of the project by the teams of the ISARA-Lyon School of Agricultural Engineering, organized over 5 years, provides for a time of exchange every year between the CNR environmental experts and the students.

Additional studies have been conducted on the avifauna (2019) and the opportunity to add a floating vegetated structure for the sustainable development of biodiversity (2020).


The project is meeting its objectives:

  • The planned output of 250MWh is well achieved.
  • The monitoring of the fish refuges allows to qualify the contribution of the refuges in the specific framework of this experiment. The continuation of the project will make it possible in the years to come to define if these refuges can be beneficial on other sites.
  • The project allows to gain experience on the construction, maintenance and operation of a floating solar site.
  • The floating platform will a priori reduce the temperature of the water in the basin, thus preventing the deterioration of water quality for irrigation.

This benefit is all the more important with climate change.
The innovation won at the first round of the CRE Solaire Innovant call for tenders.


Currently, land is secured and projects are being designed on an industrial scale (more than 30 hectares) on former gravel pits, in the Rhone Valley, on the domain conceded to CNR .



#Floatingsolar  #Rhône #Renewableenergy #Irrigation

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Photo Credit: CNR

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