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Solar’s role in the 2024 Paris Olympics

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As the world gears up for the 2024 Summer Olympics, there’s a growing buzz around the city’s groundbreaking approach to sustainability, aiming for carbon neutrality by leveraging 100% renewable energy sources

Anchored by France’s sustainability laws, which mandate that all new public buildings incorporate at least 50% bio-based materials, the Paris 2024 Olympics is poised to redefine sustainability in big sporting events. The event’s main energy supplier, EDF, plays a crucial role in this vision, ensuring that both the games and the COJO (Olympic Committee’s headquarters) are powered entirely by renewable energy.

The event’s main energy supplier, EDF, plays a crucial role in this vision, ensuring that both the games and the COJO (Olympic Committee’s headquarters) are powered entirely by renewable energy. 

This blog delves into the heart of Paris 2024’s solar energy strategy, a key component of their broader sustainability framework. We’ll explore how innovative solar solutions are being integrated into the fabric of the Olympic infrastructure, setting a precedent for future global events.

Creating one of France’s largest solar farms for the Olympic Games

Image courtesy of https://www.a234.fr/en/projects/olympic-aquatics-centre-paris-2024/
Image courtesy: https://www.a234.fr/en/projects/olympic-aquatics-centre-paris-2024/

The Aquatics Centre is the sole new permanent structure built for the Paris Games. Envisioned by a collaboration of Bouygues Batiment Ile de France, VenhoevenCS, and Atelier 2/3/4, the Centre is a testament to the Olympic values of innovation and sustainability. Notably, it features over 4,680 square meters of photovoltaic panels, making it one of the largest urban solar farms in France. This significant incorporation of solar power not only meets the Centre’s energy needs but also highlights the potential for renewable energy in supporting large-scale sporting venues.

At the heart of the Centre’s design is the emphasis on bio-based construction materials, particularly its notable timber structure, which seamlessly blends with its green surroundings. This approach not only aligns with the Olympic ethos of minimizing environmental impact but also enhances the venue’s aesthetic and ecological harmony

Key features of the Aquatics Centre include:

  • Sustainable Materials: Using bio-based materials and a timber framework, it complements the natural landscape, contributing to a reduced carbon footprint​​.
  • Renewable Energy: The Aquatics Center will use 90% renewable or recovered energy, with a solar roof covering 25% of all required electricity, equivalent to the power use of 200 households​​.
  • Water Efficiency: Innovative water management strategies are employed to significantly reduce fresh water use, with 50% of water being recycled​​.
  • Upcycling Initiative: Furniture in the Aquatics Centre is made out of wood waste from the construction site and other demolition sites, and all tribune chairs are designed from 100% recycled plastic collected from schools in Saint-Denis​​.
  • Biodiversity Enhancement: The design of the Aquatics Centre includes space for a hundred trees to be planted, improving air quality, stimulating biodiversity, and creating new ecological connections​​.
  • Community Engagement: Designed to transition into a multi-sport public facility post-Games, it promotes health and wellness through a variety of sports and events, ensuring long-term community benefits
Image courtesy: https://www.rougerie-tangram.com/en/project/centre-aquatique-olympique/

The Aquatics Centre is more than just a sports venue; it’s a future-proof investment in the Saint-Denis community, designed to be both accessible and integrative, fostering a vibrant and inclusive neighborhood. With comprehensive facilities that go beyond water sports to include soccer, basketball, climbing, and more, it’s set to become a cornerstone of local engagement and healthy living, opening its doors to the public in the summer of 2025.

Image courtesy: https://www.e-architect.com/paris/2024-paris-olympics-aquatics-centre-building

Other Paris 2024 solar projects

Beyond the innovative Aquatics Centre, Paris 2024’s sustainability efforts include the Transport Mall and a unique floating solar power plant on the Seine River. This floating installation, with its 400 square meters of photovoltaic panels, is capable of generating 78 kWc, enough to power the equivalent of 94 apartments in the Olympic and Paralympic Village.

In addition to the floating solar plant, the Transport Mall will feature a temporary canopy equipped with photovoltaic fabric. This canopy serves dual purposes: providing shade for athletes and generating electricity for nearby buildings. Following the Games, the photovoltaic canopy will be repurposed, reflecting the ongoing benefits of the infrastructure developed for the Olympics.

Solar and the transformation of Les Quinconces

Unlike past Olympics, which often left host neighborhoods burdened by underused facilities, Paris 2024’s Olympic Village aims to create a long-term vision for community benefit. Managed by a consortium of Icade Promotion, Caisse des Dépôts (Banque des Territoires), and CDC Habitat, Block D of the Olympic Village emphasizes environmental sustainability and high energy efficiency. 

A key feature of this sustainability initiative is the installation of solar panels on real estate projects within the village, powering public spaces with green energy. Complementing this, the construction of a geothermal power plant is expected to supply 68% of the village’s energy needs with local and renewable sources.

Post-Olympics, Block D will transition into a mixed-use development, providing a range of housing options, 25 to 40% of which will be affordable housing, promoting social diversity and accessibility in the housing market. The focus on sustainability and clean energy in the construction and design of these buildings ensures that residents will live in energy-efficient homes with lower utility costs and a smaller environmental footprint.

The transformation plan includes the development of community amenities such as schools, shops, offices, and green spaces that will enhance urban biodiversity, improve air quality, and reduce the head island effect in the city. By creating a balanced mix of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces, “Les Quinconces” will foster a vibrant community life.

The redevelopment of Block D into “Les Quinconces” neighborhood is expected to stimulate economic growth in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, attracting new businesses, creating jobs, and inviting investment. This transformation underscores Paris 2024’s commitment to leaving a legacy of sustainability, social cohesion, and economic vitality, benefiting the local community long after the Games have concluded.

https://olympics.com/en/news/paris-2024-athlete-village-behind-the-scenes
image courtesy: https://olympics.com/en/news/paris-2024-athlete-village-behind-the-scenes

By connecting all venues to a grid supplied by renewable sources, Paris 2024 is poised to avoid the equivalent of 13,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, setting a new standard for environmental responsibility in global sporting events. 

Setting a new sustainability standard

The integration of solar power into the Olympic infrastructure not only highlights a commitment to sustainable practices but also signals a shift towards hosting large-scale events in harmony with the environment. The 2024 Olympics will not just be a celebration of athletic excellence but also a testament to sustainable engineering, with solar energy playing a crucial role in energizing the events.

The significant increase in France’s solar energy capacity, marked by a 30% growth to 3.15 GW in 2023 — with a substantial portion stemming from photovoltaic systems under the national self-consumption scheme — underscores the country’s progress toward renewable energy adoption. This growth provides a foundation for the solar-powered infrastructure of the Olympics.

The Paris 2024 Olympics’ embrace of solar power is a pivotal moment in the intersection of sports, sustainability, and innovation. As the world watches the Olympics this summer, they will also witness a triumph of green engineering, inspiring a future where sustainability and global sporting celebrations go hand in hand.

Check out the first post in this series:

The 2024 Paris Olympics: Sustainability and innovation in action

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