Working at the town hall in Morez, we imagine, must be a busy yet somewhat uneventful affair: There's roadworks on the main rue de la République to take care of, planning for the reopening of the Eyewear Museum — and perhaps most stressful, worrying about budget and spending for this village of 4,800 nestled in the peaceful Jura mountains.
So imagine Mayor Laurent Petit's surprise (and delight) when his staff struck actual gold, not once, but twice in a matter of months … Money "almost heaven-sent," the mayor told France Bleu radio station: After discovering 500,000 euros worth of gold coins and bars last spring, hidden in jars of jams in a decrepit house the town had purchased for a measly 130,000 euros, a safe was recently found in the very same house, at the back of an old wardrobe.
In the safe: another trove of more than 500 gold coins, estimated to be worth between 100,000 and 150,000 euros, as local paper Voix du Jura reports.
Rumors had circulated about a hidden treasure in the three-story house in the town center, which belonged to a long line of eyewear and clock merchants. But when the last owner died last year in his 90s, the person who inherited the place chose to sell it to the town hall rather than having to deal with generations-worth of "junk."
As Mayor Petit told France 3 Regions, "the town's budget is only 6 million euros, so that'll do us good, for sure."
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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