With a common concern to combat climate change, a group of citizens have formed an association to preserve living conditions on our planet and act in favour of future generations. Their project: to support the development of a wind farm in St Hilaire du Maine, Mayenne. The project is being carried out collectively, involving elected representatives, local authorities, local businesses and private individuals in the process, in order to communicate about energy savings and the development of renewable energies, and so create momentum.

Presentation of the project

In 2012, the town council of St Hilaire du Maine, located in the Communauté de Communes de l’Ernée en Haute Mayenne, wanted to develop renewable energies in its commune, with a view to involving local residents. For topographical and geographical reasons, their focus is on wind power. Following a call for tenders, the Abowind development company was chosen to install four wind turbines. The company’s remit includes carrying out site surveys, building the wind farm and marketing it. In 2013, the preliminary project was presented at a public meeting. It was well received by the local population and did not give rise to any difficulties with the landowners concerned.

Members of the La Luciole association for the development of renewable energies, specialising in solar power, who had campaigned several years earlier against the burial of nuclear waste on a site in Mayenne, took up the issue. They set up the “Vents citoyens” association, which quickly attracted around a hundred members. LEADER funding enabled some of the members to take part in training with the RECIT network (Réseau régional des Energies CIToyennes), giving them the keys to understanding how to monitor a project of this scale in the specific areas of wind power (the environment around wind farms, production-related issues, financing, etc.). This network also facilitated dialogue with other associations in the west of France involved in more advanced citizen wind farm projects.  The association’s citizen members work with a number of partners, such as Site A Watt and the Territoire Energie Mayenne joint association, giving them the expertise they need to discuss and negotiate with wind farm developers.

They also met with an “anti-wind turbine” association from Mayenne. In a cordial atmosphere, each party was able to express its points of view, and at the end of the discussions, the members of this association undertook not to intervene in this project because it is run by citizens. Similarly, the Vents Citoyens association is acting as a mediator with local residents regarding a number of nuisances.

Abowind obtained planning permission and an operating permit for the wind farm in July 2019. Negotiations then began to reach a consensus on the value of the wind farm between the developer and the association. This was set at €21 million, based on a production forecast of 25,300 MegaWatts. Vents citoyens set up a simplified joint stock company and financed the project to the tune of €1 million. Through the creation of CIERC (Collectif d’Investisseurs d’Energies Renouvelables Citoyennes – Citizens’ Renewable Energy Investors’ Collective), and a network of supporters that has grown over the years, 334 citizens are involved in the St Hilaire du Maine wind farm. They are joined by the municipalities of St Hilaire du Maine, La Baconnière, Ernée and the Communauté de Communes d’Ernée, as well as partners Territoire Energie Mayenne and Energie Partagée Investissement.

The developer is financing 3 million and the rest is financed by bank loans. Very recently, Abowind expressed its wish to sell its shares, and the association is currently seeking financing in order to own 100% of the wind farm.  Work will start in December 2020 and the wind farm will be inaugurated on 2 October 2021. The electricity will be bought back by Enercoop, a cooperative network that is donating €1 per megawatt-hour to the association to help it raise awareness among the general public.

The emblematic character of the project

The work of the Vents Citoyens association responds to a well-identified problem in the region, namely increasing dependence on resources and energy. The Haute Mayenne region is 65% dependent on fossil fuels, and the production of renewable and sustainable energy is fully in line with the Haute Mayenne LAG’s strategy in the face of environmental challenges. What’s more, citizen investment in this project is innovative, as it is the first wind farm to be run by citizens in Mayenne. The involvement of the public can be seen upstream, during and downstream of the project. Some of the association’s members have invested a great deal of personal time and effort in the project, training themselves to become experts on the subject. They are now being approached by other associations wishing to benefit from their experience.

 The project has been recognised by the “Energie Partagée” label for the quality and exemplary nature of its citizen-based approach. The association is not stopping there, as it is currently working on a 100% community wind farm project in the commune of Ernée. They are currently looking for an agreement on the land, but this just goes to show that the project can be transposed to any area.


Vents citoyens

Haute Mayenne

Pays de La Loire