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Town transforms its cemetery into free communal energy scheme: 'I think it is a beautiful idea'

By providing free electricity, the project is helping lower the town's reliance on polluting energy sources such as coal.

By providing free electricity, the project is helping lower the town’s reliance on polluting energy sources such as coal.

Photo Credit: iStock

The French town of Saint-Joachim is taking a novel approach to flood prevention — and distributing free solar electricity, Euronews reports.

Saint-Joachim's cemetery is unfortunately right at sea level, and the town is in the middle of the Brière marsh. This has led to an upsetting reality: The cemetery floods in the rain.

To address the issue, the town built a canopy over the cemetery to divert the rainwater and use it to water plants nearby instead. Since the canopy would have been built anyway, Saint-Joachim's leaders decided to make it from semi-transparent solar panels, similar to this revolutionary solar glass.

Now, Euronews reports that residents can pay 5 euros (about $5.40) and buy into the project, which will offer 150-250 euros' worth of free electricity to each participating household and business yearly. A whopping 97% of voters approved the project, and 420 residents have already registered.

Saint-Joachim is using this system — dividing electricity between all the participants — to avoid a situation where some homes or businesses unfairly receive free electricity while others don't. However, if the town applied the free electricity directly to the nearest buildings, Euronews estimates that it could power 20% of the 4,000-resident town.

By providing free electricity, the project is helping lower the town's reliance on polluting energy sources such as coal, too. That means less air pollution, which is another step toward cooling down the planet.

Éric Broquaire, a shipbuilder, is a local resident who has become president of the Brier'Energie association, Euronews reports. "In France, we have never carried out a project of sharing electricity with such a quantity of people," he told Euronews. "Here it will be the first time with more than 1,000 people we will share electricity without payment."

The project, which will cost 3.35 million euros, is being funded by a 7% increase in property taxes. It's set to begin providing power in summer 2025, and other towns could easily follow.

"I think it is a beautiful idea," Broquaire said. "Either to join people from the town to build the project together, or the idea to provide free electricity to the citizens, and to start to become self-sufficient."

France has also recently passed a law requiring its biggest parking lots to be covered with solar panels. If you want to install solar panels yourself, check out this guide.

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