Citizen wind farm in the Crêtes Préardennaises

Chaire Paysage et énergie (ENSP), 2022

As a member of the network of positive energy territories (Tepos), the Crêtes Préardennaises community of municipalities has significant natural resources that the elected representatives intend to make the most of. The forests supply wood-fired heating systems, the waterways are suitable for micro-hydro power, the farms for methanisation and then there is the wind. In 2002, a wind farm project was born. The studies led to the resizing of a first project that was too ambitious. Finally, the experts concluded that a wind farm of three turbines totalling 2.4 MW was feasible, which is the energy consumed by 4,000 people. In order to ensure that the energy produced benefits its inhabitants, the elected representatives wish to mobilise local savings to finance this three and a half million euro project. To do this, they are relying on the wind farm’s promoters, who are going to involve the citizens before the banks.

To download : ficheexperience_cretespreardennaises_eolien-2.pdf (240 KiB)

The Crêtes Préardennaises, a diversified rural territory with a varied relief open to the wind

1 - The ridges, complex reliefs, « hills » and balconies, remarkable linear features

The landscape unit of the crêtes préardennaises occupies the south-west of the Ardennes department. It gives its name to the community of communes, which brings together 94 communes and 20,000 inhabitants, all within the same geographical framework. It has a very hilly and wooded relief. The ridges are subdivided into two chains separated by a depression. They mark the borders of the Parisian Basin. Alternating views and intimate micro-sites, the diversity of this diversity proves to be favourable to the installation of wind energy, with winds taking their full extent on the different slopes and ridges.

2 - The agricultural ridges, a sparsely populated area with varied landscape features

The territory of the Preardenne ridges is home to 22 inhabitants/km²; only 4% of the territorial surface is urbanised. This low density is conducive to the installation of wind turbines, which can be set up away from dwellings. The landscapes are still marked by the medieval heritage: architectural heritage of abbeys, agricultural openings and ridges occupied by forests. As for the blast furnaces still present, they bear witness to the rural industrial activity of the first half of the 20th century. Pastures for livestock and cereal and vegetable crops follow one another on the undulating slopes. During the second half of the 20th century, the landscape opened up slightly as a result of land consolidation. A part of the territory was urbanised under the influence of Charleville-Mézières, occupying the slopes and privatising the views from the northern ridges.

3 - Territorial strategies and citizen involvement

The territory’s mainly agricultural activity is balanced in terms of surface area, between pastures and cereal and market garden crops. The current challenge of the actors of the territory is food autonomy, with the will to benefit from all the activities of the sector in proximity circuits (production, transformation, distribution). A global territorial strategy was implemented in the 2000s, with a strong local dynamic due to citizen involvement. The local associative fabric is varied, complemented by an economic fabric of more than 650 companies, mainly focused on the craft industry. The A34 motorway provides an easy link to employment and business centres such as Charleville-Mézières, Rethel and Reims. The preserved rural qualities make the Preardenne ridges a popular tourist destination, with the architectural quality preserved in all the villages. This territory is therefore conducive to the creation of concerted citizen projects, such as the Ailes des Crêtes wind farm.

Co-construction of the energy project and the landscape identity

1 - A collective desire

The Communauté de communes des Crêtes Préardennaises was created in 1995. The elected representatives became aware of the importance of taking charge of the emerging issues of contemporary energy. In the early 2000s, the local energy agency of the Ardennes (ALE08), a departmental structure, organised numerous public meetings to explain, inform and communicate with the population about the challenges of wind energy. The Community of Municipalities has been carrying out a wind energy development plan since 2003, in order to define a plan. This model, supported and monitored by the Ademe, has been exported to the national level in the form of a wind development zone (ZDE). The ZDE of the Crêtes Préardennaises includes a detailed landscape study and encourages the development of citizen wind farms in the area. The steering committee is made up of a wide range of players (elected representatives, associations, State services, ABF), and establishes arbitrations on potential sites. Monitored by the Ademe, this mode of governance serves as a laboratory. For its part, the Ardennes prefecture opened a wind power centre so that all the people involved in wind power projects could work together. In 2007, it produced a wind landscape plan, revised in 2021.

2 - Citizen energy scenario

The desire to generate a citizen energy scenario emerges, with the creation in 2008 of an energy cooperative, the SCIC ENERgic, as the economic structure. In 2014, the Ailes des Crêtes wind farm project was defined as 1/3 by the SCIC and 2/3 by the inhabitants. At the same time, other wind farm sites are planned and implemented. From 2013, with the disappearance of the regulatory validity of the ZDEs, the regulation shifted the opposability to the regional level, with the obligation for the regions to establish a Schéma Régional Eolien. Developers have thus prospected within the framework of the regional plans, sometimes despite the ZDE framework which was no longer enforceable. For the Ailes des Crêtes site, the desire to open up to citizen investment led to the choice of the developer Enéole, which is interested in this type of project. In order to mobilise the savings of the various actors of the territory for the project, a co-financing for a territorial animation is defined between the Community of communes and the Department. A « local and citizen investment » coordinator was recruited after the building permit was obtained in 2013. She organises public meetings, events for elected representatives, schools, etc. This allows the inhabitants to be mobilised around the project. The Belgian foundation Kids & Wind is also involved in the project, promoting investment for children to become co-owners of a wind turbine. In 2008, the SCIC joined forces with other citizen actors on a national scale to create the Shared Energy movement. This federation benefits from financial aid from the Ademe in order to generate an approval authorising public offerings of financial securities, which notably allows the Ailes des Crêtes project to succeed.

The project’s landscape attention, for all phases and scales of reflection of the wind turbines

1 - Wind power development zones chosen according to landscape arbitrations

During the consultations linked to the Community of Communes’ wind power development plan in 2003, it appeared that the inhabitants did not want anarchic development. Their territory is suitable for wind power development, but in limited quantities. This is why the number of sites selected by the elected representatives during the plan is very limited in relation to the number of technically accessible sites. This plan gives rise to the setting up of Wind Development Zones (ZDE), which are determined according to landscape typologies that are more or less favourable to the installation of wind turbines. The State services, by « fear of landscape sprawl », prefer dense parks. They choose to favour a few large machines (100 m minimum at the tip of the blade). The ZDE, prefigured by the Community of Municipalities, is modified. Only one wind farm, in sector 2, out of the three initially planned, is built.

2 - Landscape sensitivities on the scale of the department

In 2007, the State services (DDT) produced their landscape plan, now revised in 2021 on a departmental scale. For precise framing, maps of socio-cultural, geographical and landscape constraints are produced. The mapping of landscape sensitivities on the scale of the department lists the landscape units and the possibilities of implantation according to gradients ranging from sensitive to adapted.

3 - Scale of the park project, land survey and visual influence zone

For the impact study carried out within the framework of the building permit for the Ailes des Crêtes wind farm, the developer Enéole called on the same consultancy firm as the one commissioned to draw up the Community of Communes’ wind power development plan. The latter is carrying out the impact study on the environmental and landscape aspects. A landscape analysis on a wider scale is carried out. It identifies the landscape components, the perceptions of the landscape, the distant and close perimeters around the future park. It is composed of field surveys, maps of the zones of visual influence, photomontages and topographical sections. The scale of the Chagny and Bouvellemont plateau is defined as being consistent with that of the wind turbines. However, on the overall scale of the study area, the landscapes of the Crêtes Préardennaises have an intimate character and fine landscape scales. The issue in the dossier is the preservation of villages from the visual and sound dominance of wind turbines, as well as the maintenance of skylines. The layout of the wind turbines takes into account the structuring lines of force of the landscape on a large scale, and in particular the presence of the RD 991 which draws a North/South orientation on the plateau at the scale of the close perimeter.

4 - The three wind turbines, a modest energy project in common

The three wind turbines are located in parallel along the RD 991 in the communes of Chagny and Bouvellemont, in an open area of agricultural plateau. They are located at the same altitude and are equidistant from each other. They are Enercon models. They are located on farmland, and are very easily accessible from the road on short farm tracks. Their concrete bases serve as manure composting platforms.

Shared energy and landscape, future care and attention

1 - After the flagship project

The Ailes des Crêtes project had a certain impact after its implementation. Articles and interviews have been published on the project in various media, making it a showcase for the territory. Citizen investors are regularly kept informed by a newsletter about the status of the park and news. There has not yet been any financial return, as the project has been developed, like most investment projects, over a long period of time, and it is estimated that profits will be made in the coming years.

2 - Energy futures in the territory, redistribution, mix and global thinking

For the follow-up to its involvement as a positive energy territory (TEPOS), and on the issues raised in terms of autonomy and territorial identity, the Communauté de communes has learned from the Ailes des Crêtes. The project took a long time to set up and required a lot of energy. The opening up to shared governance was complicated, particularly because of the pioneering experience, and led to disillusionment. The elected representatives are now trying to reflect on the energy mix (micro-hydraulics, small-scale methanisation, solar energy, etc.), by mobilising other renewable energy infrastructures, for example the creation of village photovoltaic power stations. For future wind energy projects, the Community of Municipalities does not necessarily want to adopt the model of the citizen-invested project, but to meet interesting developers and involve them in the territorial processes underway (involvement of the population, increasingly strong desire for energy autonomy, etc.). A fiscal redistribution pact is set up for all energy projects. Profits accrue to the Community of Municipalities and are redistributed equitably throughout the territory. This avoids the possibility of certain town councils wanting wind turbines on their territory at all costs, and allows the implantation of wind turbines to be considered in a global and harmonised way.

3 - Co-creation of the national network

The SCIC ENErgic accompanying the Ailes des Crêtes wind farm project is one of the first SCICs to carry out a citizen energy project and to create the shared energy network. This had a certain impact and made it possible to federate, around common values and shared tools, multiple local project leaders on a national scale.

4 - Lack of regulatory tools and project governance

Today, on the scale of the department, the various actors think that there is an overload in terms of wind energy projects. Since the abandonment of the ZDEs in 2013, there is no longer a tool for regulation by public actors of energy projects carried out by private actors. The ZDE drawn up by the Community of Municipalities had made it possible to identify interesting project sites, particularly in terms of landscape, with in-depth studies carried out by a public player. Without this regulatory tool, the choice of project sites is made according to the speculations of private players. « During the elaboration of the ZDE at the level of the Community of Municipalities, a potential project site was identified as incompatible with wind power development. The landscape study indicated a strong overhanging effect on the adjacent village. Today, the developers have carried out a new impact study, which indicates the opposite. The project is therefore accepted, and the population no longer has confidence in it. Christel Sauvage, President of ENErgic The inhabitants are losing confidence in the territorial institutions, and the projects are being carried out without general acceptance. Associations have stood up against several projects in the Crêtes Préardennaises region.


  • Experience extracted from the guide «  Energy transition : towards desirable landscapes  » carried out in 2021 - 2022 by the Landscape and Energy Chair of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage de Versailles :

To go further