Belle-Île-en-Mer: soon to be a new smart island

Published by on 09.21.2018 - 5 min

Solar panels, smart charging stations, stationary energy storage systems and self-service electric cars: Belle-Île-en-Mer will soon be a model for energy transition. The project led by Renault and Morbihan Energie aims to reduce the island’s dependence on fossil fuel supplies from the mainland and to promote the growth of electric mobility.

Renault is actively working to create smart islands. After Porto Santo, Renault signed a letter of intent on September 20th announcing its participation in a new energy transition project initiated by Belle-Île-en-Mer (Morbihan, France). Fitting right into the ecological policies of Îles du Ponant, the project seeks to strengthen the use of renewable energy sources through the implementation of smart storage and management solutions. Electric mobility is the spearhead of this initiative, which is supported by local elected officials and Enedis, the operator of the local distribution network.

Favouring renewable energy

Renault ZOE au Palais à Belle-Île-en-Mer

Starting in 2019, islanders and visitors who disembark on Belle-Île-en-Mer will be able to benefit from a fleet of electric cars at their disposal through a self-service rental system. These vehicles, Renault ZOEs and Kangoo Z.E.s, will be powered by a network of charging stations installed near the island’s primary points of interest.

All of them will benefit from the surplus energy produced by solar panels installed on the roofs of the main public buildings. The equipment will be installed by Morbihan Énergie, who has already contributed to the deployment of several charging stations throughout the area.

“We are going to bring in the smart charging system that triggers an electric car to start charging when one of the buildings produces more energy than it consumes”, explains Nicolas Schottey, Director of Groupe Renault’s New Business Energy programme.

For example, “the solar panels installed on the roof of the school provide warmth and light to the classrooms, but the energy produced during the weekend or school holidays is not consumed directly by the building. We can thus use it to charge the cars”, he explains. The system therefore aims to promote energy consumption closer to the site of production, with an eye towards creating a local distribution network and fostering autonomy from the mainland.

Renault ZOE station de recharge Belle-Île-en-Mer

As for the Locatourisle agency, an operator of electric rental cars, it will benefit from Renault’s fleet management tools to be able to locate vehicles, optimise their charging and use the car-sharing service available through the Renault Mobility app.

Storing solar energy for heating

The project is not limited to mobility; it also envisions other scenarios in which the use of locally produced energy can significantly optimise energy consumption. This time, it’s the stationary energy storage system model that is used.

Renault will equip the most popular holiday resort of the island with second-generation batteries from its electric cars. They will store the electricity generated by solar panels during the daytime before giving it back at night, primarily in the form of heat for the holiday-makers’ bungalows. Now able to power each lodging individually, the village should be able to extend its open season, whereas prior to now it has been limited by the operating costs of its central heating. Belle-Île’s large thalassotherapy centre could also be equipped with a similar system, used in this case to heat sea water, appropriated for its healing properties.

In both cases, energy storage offers added flexibility and the promise of substantial savings.

Democratising innovative uses

Renault ZOE en recharge à Belle-Île-en-Mer

The holiday resort will also enjoy the benefit of a charging station dedicated to self-service electric cars: the perfect way to introduce guests passing through to the virtues of car sharing.

“With the scale of Belle-Île, the project’s aim is to demonstrate how electric vehicles make a different understanding of mobility possible: car sharing is thus intended as much for residents—permanent or second home owners on the island—as it is for tourists”, Nicolas Schottey states. Training sessions and events to raise awareness will also be organised with the cooperation of public authorities.

Making the “smart island” model sustainable and exportable

The project is a large-scale one, but it isn’t the first for Renault: the Groupe has in fact already gained the experience of a “smart island” pilot project undertaken in Porto Santo, in the Madeira archipelago (Portugal). The constraints there were even more demanding as this island is truly isolated at sea, without an electrical connection to the mainland. Yet the challenges of both are very similar, as is the methodology, since both times the car manufacturer worked hand-in-hand with a wide variety of partners. Public and private stakeholders, at local and national levels, with different jobs, are creating favourable conditions for energy transition and electric mobility.

“We are developing holistic solutions, with already proven technologies working alongside newer ones, to meet local needs. The optimisations implemented on Belle-Île are replicable not only on other Îles du Ponant, but also on the scale of cities or neighbourhoods”, notes Nicolas Schottey.

Copyrights : Yannick BROSSARD et Olivier MARTIN-GAMBIER

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