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The Mistral wind is frequently present in the lower Rhone valley. The dry and at times strong downwind from the northwest provides a welcome cooling off in midsummer. Together with Mediterranean winds from the south, it provides ideal conditions for using wind energy to produce electricity. One of these wind farms, which converts the renewable energy of the Mistral into climate-friendly electricity, is the Roussas-Gravières wind farm in the department of Drôme. It has been in operation since 2006 and has been 100% owned by Alpiq since 2008.
If you drive south with the Mistral wind behind you, you will see the six turbines of Roussas-Gravières as you get to Montélimar – they are on the left-hand side of the Autoroute du Soleil. With a capacity of 10.5 MW, the wind farm produces an average of almost 25 GWh of electricity per year. This is enough to supply around 6,000 households. A comprehensive repowering programme is currently being planned. In 2023 and 2024, the six turbines will be replaced by more powerful and more efficient turbines, increasing the annual electricity production by 30%.
Roussas-Gravières is located in the municipality of Roussas in the department of Drôme at the gateway to Provence. The region is therefore known as Drôme Provençale. This name is well deserved because of the lavender fields that cover the landscape in violet, especially at the end of June, as Antoine Millard explains. “When the lavender is in bloom, I particularly like the magnificent landscape of the Provençal hills and plateaus”.
Antoine Millard works at Alpiq in Toulouse, more than 300 km further west. He is responsible for the operation of the Alpiq production facilities for electricity from renewable energy in France. Consequently, Antoine Millard travels several times a year to the Drôme Provençale region and enthuses: “The predominantly sunny climate is very pleasant all year round, but especially in late spring and early autumn. In addition to the lavender fields, the landscape is covered in olive groves and oak, pine and cypress trees. The wind carries their fragrance across the countryside and mixes it with the scents of thyme, rosemary and lavender. It’s just sublime!”