In Flers-en-Escrebieux (North), RTE has just inaugurated its brand new Avelin-Gavrelle line, going from the surroundings of Lille to those of Arras, which it wants to make an emblem of both the transformation of equipment and its methods of dialogue with the inhabitants.
“It’s still prettier in the landscape, it makes me think of the Millau viaduct when you see the alignment of the pylons”, appreciates Jean-Luc Florin, farmer, observing the new pylons which follow one another in his fields of sugar beet and peas.
After a long consultation – eight years for only two works – RTE has indeed adopted a new pylon for the region, called “Equilibre”, evoking a sail of a boat and blending more easily into the decor.
Forty-five were planted along this new 400,000-volt power line, redone for a budget of 215 million euros in order to triple its capacity, while the previous one was approaching saturation.
“We had the idea of making a fluid line, which married the landscape”, explains the designer of the pylons, the Franco-British architect Hugh Dutton. They had to be “as thin as possible”.
– “Not easy” –
Jean-Luc Florin also welcomes their lesser grip on the ground: “For us, it’s easier to work, because there is only one pillar in the middle, around which we can turn”.
The very high voltage electric cables now placed higher also reassure him when driving in a tractor. “Beneath the old line, there were times when you wondered, that there wasn’t an arc happening.”
However, the project has not always had good press in the region. “There were very strong disputes in the first years”, recognizes Xavier Piechaczyk, president of RTE. But the work finally took place “generally in a serene climate”.
“The installation of the new pylons required some concessions, such as the purchase of houses on the passage”, remembers Jean-Jacques Peyraud, mayor of Flers-en-Escrebieux.
“It was not easy, since the first house that we had to remove was inhabited by elderly people who had lived there for a very, very long time”, he says, welcoming the work of consultation.
For RTE, it was absolutely necessary to have this new line accepted, deemed essential because of the great needs of a region that produces large amounts of renewable electricity and where factories are gradually giving up fossil fuels. The new line also strengthens the interconnection with neighboring Belgium.
– Massive investments –
If it is not so common today to redo or create a 400,000 volt line in France, the exercise will soon multiply.
“The French 400,000 volt network was designed when we built the nuclear fleet, today it is a network that will be around fifty years old. So we will start to renew it in the years to come”, explains Xavier Piechaczyk.
Needs are also changing with the emergence of renewable energies. “When we have built several (wind) parks at sea, in the north and west of France, we will have to bring all this energy back to the metropolises and to the east”.
“This opens up very massive investment prospects for us until 2050”, underlines the president of RTE.
Today the company invests 1.7 billion euros per year in the network, a sum that will gradually more than double by the middle of the century. It will be more than 2 billion from 2024, then more than 3 billion after 2030 and finally more than 4 billion annually between 2035 and 2050.
The sum devoted to the transmission of current represents around 10% of the electricity bill, a share which must remain stable in the future for the consumer, promises RTE, even if the overall bill is likely to increase.