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Green France Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Business, Geography, Vocabulary

France has a long history of using alternative sources of fuel to generate electricity. After the global oil crisis of the early 1970’s France embarked on an ambitious program to ensure energy independence and today generates about 75% of its electricity from nuclear. While nuclear may not be the greenest source of energy, on our recent trip to Bretagne we saw an example (or I should say, many, many examples!) of another way that France is seeking to maintain its energy-independence with cleaner, greener, renewable sources of energy.

Relatively flat, with lots of open space, and bordered by ocean, la Bretagne is an ideal region for an important source of renewable energy today, les éoliennes. It seemed like as soon as we crossed into Bretagne on our long drive from Paris they started to appear. No matter what direction we looked, the horizon was dotted with mechanical giants. Since 2010, la Bretagne has had its own energy initiative aimed at securing the supply of energy in Bretagne that comes from Bretagne. A major part of this initiative is increasing the production and use of renewable energy (les énergies renouvelables).

If you’re like most French learners, you learned that the word for ‘mill’ (or ‘windmill’) is ‘moulin’ (or ‘moulin à vent’). That’s so old school! In the old days when the emphasis was on the mill function, ‘moulin’ was the common term. In today’s modern ‘moulin’ the emphasis is on the ‘wind’ (‘le vent’) and the word for a wind turbine is une éolienne . For example: ‘La France se met à l’électricité verte. Il y a des éoliennes partout en Bretagne.’ (France is going green. There are wind turbines all over Brittany.) And ‘Alphonse Daudet a vécu et écrit des contes dans un moulin à vent en Provence.’ (Alphonse Daudet lived and wrote in a windmill in Provence.)

La Bretagne is also home to the world’s oldest tidal power station. Situated at the estuary of the Rance river which empties out into the English channel between the Breton cities of Dinard and St. Malo la barrage de la Rance (the Rance dam) has been generating hydroelectricity from the power of the tides since 1966. If you visit Brittany, you can drive right over the barrage de la Rance between St. Malo and Dinard!

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Image credits:
Wind turbines – By Michael Bissonnette

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About the Author:Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris