Guy de Maillé, entrepreneur, promoter of agrivoltaic orchards

“I am 52 years old. I was born in Lisbon, I grew up in France, I lived in Monte Carlo and I live in Barcelona. I am an entrepreneur. I am divorced and have three children, Eduard (27), Nicolás (17) and Paul (9). Politics? General interest, ‘win-win’. Beliefs? Practicing Catholic. Support for farmers”

Are there aristocrats in France?

In the classroom the teacher was saying my name, Guy de Maillé de la Tour-landry, and everyone turned around, mocking. It was horrible. I never use my title of earl.

I’ll call him Guy.

My line begins in the year 930, and my father did carry that story on his shoulders.

In what sense? Give me an example.

He wanted land like his ancestors, he bought a farm with vineyards in Bordeaux, between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, but he did not sell his wine: that was for the bourgeoisie, not for nobles.

And what did he do with the wine?

He gave it to friends. And to the peasants, who sold it on their own.

Did you live there?

Yes. And I went from 16 to 18 in a Lefebvrist boarding school. It was tough, but it shaped me.

I see you say it with joy.

That rudeness taught me to know my limits. Sometimes they left us in a distant forest, with nothing, and … to go back to school! But without asking anyone for help, huh? It was two days.

What did you want to do with your life?

I didn’t want to go to college. I thought my father would give me an office, but he gave me overalls and put me with the peasants.

Didn’t you rebel?

My father, for me, was god. Distant, great lord. I fell back to show him that whatever I did, I was going to be the best.

I get it.

I also admired my great-uncle, Paul Kronacheur, who was an advisor to the King of the Belgians.

Oh yeah?

He negotiated the arrival of cereals after World War II: thus he saved Belgium from hunger. He was fond of me, and one day, when I was nine years old, on a hunt, he introduced me to Eisenhower.

What did you learn from your great-uncle?

To help others to prosper. And to go through this life leaving a beneficial mark.

And what footprint do you dream of leaving?

A zero photovoltaic footprint.

What is that?

Have you seen a country spot with a disused, abandoned photovoltaic park?

Are there?

They cut subsidies, and without maintenance and no longer used, today nobody pays for its dismantling. They have forever ruined agricultural lands that were fertile.

And are they not recoverable?

No longer, the earth has died forever because concrete was used and the soil caked.

And what do you propose?

I offer the farmer high profitability on his farm, combining its agricultural and photovoltaic use.

Both at the same time?

Crops and photovoltaic panels, yes. The farm will generate income from the sale of vegetables and from the sale of energy to the electricity company.

Is that possible?

Yes, it is my business project. The photovoltaic panels are screwed without concrete and at distances that make it possible to cultivate that soil.

Without any detriment to the fertility of the earth?

On the contrary, the contract guarantees organic soil fertilizer –through sheep, ducks …–, without synthetic fertilizers, and with bio-crops.

And will the plates be there forever?

Only during the sixty years of the contract. Once that time has elapsed, we unscrew plates and the floor is undamaged.

Do you sign a commitment to uninstall the photovoltaic park, then?

I sign the dismantling, and I add my commitment to plow the land and leave it ready for the planting that will be the turn of the grandchildren.

I If a farmer wants to convert his field into agrivoltaic, how much money will he earn?

He will charge 3,000 euros per hectare, every year for 60 years, at no expense to him.

Is this a lot or a little?

It is three times more than anyone has ever paid. It’s that photovoltaic panels are more efficient every day, and I am also proud to be adding three benefits.

What three benefits?

Energetic, environmental and social: renewable energy (it is poured into the electricity grid), respect for the environment (it does not leave a CO2 footprint) and injects prosperity for the peasant.

But the plates are not very natural.

We raised a four-and-a-half meter tall plant screen that surrounds each field, also by contract: you won’t see anything.

You have it all figured out, I see.

Let no one get on the peasant’s back. It is my goal, because my father made me work with them and I made them my brothers.

After that, what else did you do?

After two years in the vineyard, I went to sell wines. Support to the peasant. In the event of any irregularity, a clause in the contract gives you irrevocable power to recover your land.

What do you say to your father today?

My father went bankrupt, lost the farm and died.

Oh I’m very sorry.

I have advised the agrivoltaic performance of that farm for years and have agreed with its owners to buy it back. I’m going to get it back.

What would you say to your father today, if you could?

Dad, I did it.

A rich legacy for the grandchildren

“Dad, I did it!” Guy says, tears in his blue eyes. “If the heart hurts, it is alive; and if it is alive, it gets emotional,” he confided to me. Romantic like your project … but with many pragmatic and detailed clauses: future regulations of the Generalitat are advancing (it plans to go from producing 276 megawatts / year .. to 6,000 in 2030!). Guy’s project for agrivoltaic gardens (GreenCM.uk.com) is already being developed in two Catalan municipalities, and fourteen others are studying it. Every farmer hates bequeathing his grandchildren a photovoltaic scrap dump, he wants a rich crop for them: this is what Guy, apologist for win-win, guarantees, who concludes: “Be careful, there is no planet B.”