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What are the rules for solar panels near historic French monuments?

Projects near a listed building or site must be approved by the Architectes des bâtiments de France

Reader question: I would love solar panels but am in an area close to a historic monument. My application a few years ago got turned down by Architectes des bâtiments de France (ABF) for this reason. Has anything changed?

The government issued a formal notice on photovoltaic installations in 2022 following complaints that too many projects were being refused.

Prefects were told to “contribute to the development of photovoltaic energy by giving people with projects an easily understood way of getting authorisation”.

However, the notice continued: “Only refuse projects if they affect remarkable buildings, listed or not, or the countryside where it is protected as a site of remarkable heritage.” 

Read also: Eight questions about installing solar panels on homes in France

In its interpretation of the guidance, the Ministry of Culture (under which ABF falls) says any solar panel project near a listed building or site must be approved by ABF. 

The appropriate distances away from the monument are set out in local codes d’urbanisme.

It promises ABF will offer suggestions to make panels less visible, but no specific mention is made of coloured solar panels, despite some manufacturers’ claims to be ABF-approved.

“Exceptions can be made, on a case by case basis,” the guidance ends. 

Effectively, then, there has been no change to the rules, but one ABF’s vision is different from another’s, so it might be worth applying again.

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