/ 26 April 2021

Article: French vineyards devastated by April frost that followed unusually warm March

vineyards protected by solar panels

MONTADY, France — When Émilie Faucheron and her husband took over her father’s vineyards in southern France in 2014, she knew that climate change in this sun-soaked region could one day upend their business.

But she didn’t expect that day to come so soon — or to be so cold.

Last month, France saw record temperatures for March. Faucheron sensed spring was just around the corner, and so did her grapevines, which began to grow early.

But on the night of April 7, a freeze with temperatures as low as 18 degrees Fahrenheit descended on the region, piercing the vulnerable buds that had only just emerged and destroying 80 percent of them in Faucheron’s vineyard.

[…] A different sort of adaptation is on display on a plain outside the town of Piolenc, a two-hour drive from Faucheron’s vineyard, where researchers are hoping to turn southern France’s vineyards into solar-power hubs.

Above a small vineyard owned by the local chamber of agriculture, French solar power company Sun’Agri has installed photovoltaic panels that can follow the path of the sun — and may at the same time protect vines from some of the most dire consequences of climate change.

In summer, the panels provide shade, reduce water consumption and cool the ground. During frost periods, the panels have the opposite effect and keep warmer air near the vulnerable buds.

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