When we think of the word entrepreneur, we sometimes forget that it is a concept that can include both people with great experience and others who are new to the admirable task of promoting companies that require many hours of study until a feasible project, and susceptible of being financed, comes to life. Guy de Maillé (Lisbon, 1968 – ) is an entrepreneur with an Alexandrian spirit who encourages the creation of projects that promote a common effort – for the good of all – combining stability, economic prosperity for farmers and sustainable development focused on future generations. How? Incorporating dismantling and management guarantees conceived in 2009 and summarized in its personal concept: Empreinte Photovoltaïque Zero.

This Frenchman based in Barcelona speaks with enthusiasm and clarity. His kindness is matched by his great pragmatic spirit. He is well aware that for a business initiative to succeed in Spain, it must have the blessing and explicit support of the public administrations. Especially when it comes to working at the local level.

Plots and rural land dedicated to the exploitation of solar energy occupy the only prominent role in its portfolio. In addition, he knows the countryside and the rural environment like few others. De Maillé comes from a family of winegrowers whose long tradition is lost in the mists of time. During our conversation, he makes it very clear that he believes in initiatives that are fully collaborative and balanced. Those in which all parties involved win and in which respect for the environment and nature is guaranteed.

His elegant appearance and aristocratic demeanor are the outward image of an empathetic, assertive and to-the-point conversationalist. He knows what life is all about and has an in-depth knowledge of the business world. Here is the result of my conversation with one of the most generous with his time, eloquent and funny entrepreneurs I have ever had the good fortune to interview.

Mr. de Maillé, to what projects do you devote most of your time today?

To boost the economy of small farmers abandoned by administrations and suffocated by agricultural industries. It is not the farmers who have to be at the service of industrial energy development, but the other way around. We are dealing with two primary activities, energy and agriculture. When we bring them together, we are working in the general interest and that, as the name suggests, should have positive consequences for the local community as a whole.

Are people aware of the enormous advantages of photovoltaics?

Look, people know about the advantages of photovoltaic energy, but they are not aware that we have to protect future generations by ensuring a dismantling that does not depend on any bank, nor on any legislative change that could affect the cost of the dismantling.

When did you decide to take the plunge and focus on this type of project?

Alzheimer’s attacked my father with enormous virulence, which caused the family farm to go bankrupt. The only solution was to create a mixed activity and, in 2009, France saw the adoption of government measures promoting solar PV initiatives.

What are the main obstacles you encounter when promoting collaborative projects?

I’m going to disappoint him (laughs). To date, all the administrations to which we have shown our model of agricultural production growth, of total landscape integration with management guarantees linked to an annual audit and dismantling guarantees linked to a power of attorney in favor of the administration have not shown the slightest rejection. I am basically talking about the local level. Another thing is the general state administration, which may have a greater or lesser interest in a standard photovoltaic development that only benefits the owner and the electricity operator.

In Spain, it seems that the first priority is to have the support of public administrations. Do you agree?

Support from public administrations is a necessity. Personally, I am an ardent fan of the administration. They are the only entity that will be present at the time of dismantling, 30 or 60 years from now. Depending on the duration of the surface right contract. I think that the administration has to be present during the entire management phase, as well as during the decommissioning and replacement of the land used. It is our only guarantor of sustainable development that does not mean bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.

Do you think people are unaware that money can be made without harming living things and nature?

Economic education should be implemented to cover everything that affects farmers’ balance sheets. For many of them, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) subsidy from the European Union is the only way to ensure their survival. We should not and cannot rely on a subsidy to ensure the profitability of a productive unit. We have to adapt to a new type of agriculture that must necessarily be local and that cannot be profitable if it is not associated with a mixed activity such as solar energy. No one can lower the rates, but we can all make sure that, through citizen participation, the inhabitants of a municipality can earn money: up to 7% return on the investment made.

Tell us how you work and how you manage to convince all stakeholders to pull in the same direction.

Evidently, the landowner is interested in renting at a value of up to €3,000/hectare per year. The young farmer is interested in receiving a financial participation of 750 euros per megawatt per year. Above all, the local administration is convinced of the good foundations of my concept because it lies in a guarantee of management and disassembly, in addition to producing a proximity agriculture in which biodiversity is a proven fact and which, as far as possible, will be sold within a radius of 15 km in order to be qualified as Agriculture Kilometer 0.

The subsidy from CAP funds received by the young farmer will be automatically transferred to the nearest agricultural cooperative of the agrovoltaic plant. This also helps other farmers, since the young farmer in question receives the economic participation paid by the industrialist in question.

We are currently initiating remote self-consumption projects that will make it possible, if the law increases the connection distance, to feed villages and towns that are in the process of being abandoned. This is an energy that can be transported up to 15 km and can be qualified as clean and non-polluting. We all know that electric overhead lines are polluting and that does not contribute to a green future.

The last step will consist of installing batteries in these remote self-consumption projects to make them totally independent. Our goal is to carry out tailor-made projects. In other words, completely adapting to the specific needs of a population.

There are voices that say that the future will be green or it won’t be. Do you also see it that way?

There is a lot of hypocrisy in this issue. We see how people talk about a green future while using extremely polluting materials. It does not seem normal to me that a panel that has traveled 6,500 km and has been manufactured in places of dubious sustainability, obtains the same economic benefits as materials manufactured with proximity criteria, in factories powered by clean energy and traveling in electric means of transport.

If we want to be green, we have to get it right from start to finish. Turning away from an economic narcissism that aims to achieve 2-figure returns. There is not and should not be any industry with a 2-digit return on equity. The day that a government realizes that a legislative change is needed and that we must force the payment of a CO2 tax that takes into account the entire production and transport chain, then and only then will we be able to speak of a green future.

What have you learned from such a sacrificing group as farmers?

The farmers we are targeting are landowners with land ranging from 7 to 60 hectares. They are the ones who suffer the most. They are the parents of young people who, for economic reasons, leave the land and go to the city. It turns out that those same farmers get a ridiculous pension compared to what they contribute to the population: without them we cannot eat. That is why they must be cared for and protected. This can be done by creating a mixed activity that allows them to obtain an income from the rented land at €3000 per hectare per year, an economic participation of €750/megawatt/year for the young farmer who will work this land on which he will produce a local agriculture and, finally, an economic participation of €750/megawatt/year to be paid into the farmers’ pension fund so that they can enjoy a better old age.

In this way, we will no longer describe the farming community as “sacrificed” and we will finally be able to say that we have contributed to improving the quality of life of older farmers and to enabling young farmers to buy equipment by mortgaging part of the €750 per megawatt per year that they will receive from the energy operator. We cannot close our eyes so as not to see how badly our elderly people are suffering! By helping them with this financial contribution of €750 per megawatt per year, we all contribute together to the well-being of our seniors.

What lessons have you learned from the corporate world?

Life is an enterprise that we build every day and from which we learn at every moment. I am 55 years old and all I can tell you is that nothing can be considered as acquired or lost, and that speculation or economic narcissism is the basis for long-term failure.

I will give you an example. When the first articles on photovoltaics were published in June 2020, I received many phone calls from people wanting to buy farms to rent them at 3000€ / hectare with the intention of working with us.

My answer was clear and categorical. We do not want any kind of speculation to be present at any point in the chain. Consequently, if the person was not the legal owner of the land prior to 2015, he or she could not be part of our development plan.

Tell me about the projects that you still have to carry out

My business philosophy is not to undertake as many of my own projects as possible, but to contribute my small grain of experience acquired over the last 14 years. I wish to publish it so that everyone can access the information and even modify it at their convenience, but always favoring a common effort whose goal is the good of all.

Money is not an end, but a means. The agricultural sector needs us and, in turn, we need the agricultural sector. I would love to participate in a project where consumption is proximity and seasonal. I wish to take part in an initiative in which the CO2 balance of materials is priced. These are, perhaps, the two projects of my life.

Finally, address active entrepreneurs and those who are still hesitating to take the plunge.

Global warming is a reality. The land heats up during the summer and that is unquestionable. Water shortages in the reservoirs are a fact, as well as deaths caused by high temperatures! The union of all conscientious entrepreneurs can change this dynamic. Let’s take care of the earth and it will take care of us!