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French auto recycler takes sustainability to another level

An example of how the auto recycling industry can support the communities they are a part of and contribute to the sustainability goals is given by an auto recycling company in the Southeast of France – GPA.


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Johan Renaud in GPA’s vehicle dismantlement factory

Founded in 1962, GPA is a leader of the auto recycling industry in Europe’s largest vehicle salvage market: France. The company is led by Operations Director, Johan Renaud. He is the grandson of the founders Edward and Leone Renaud.

Johan has been instrumental in the growth of the company while ensuring to align the progress with the values that sets GPA apart. This family-owned company employs 200 people for their operations in a state-of-the-art factory in Livron sur Drôme in the Southeast of France. The company and the family are deeply embedded in the area and are proud of their impact on the community.

GPA buys damaged vehicles from insurance companies. They have the storage capacity for 7000 vehicles on their 60-acre site.

In line with their sustainability goals, GPA installed 15 shade houses equipped with solar panels representing a surface of 10 acres to provide 10 GWh per year of electricity with a maximum power of 8 MWp. Once the connection to the distribution network is complete, the solar panels will provide enough electricity to cover the needs of 5 000 households, which represents the two cities nearby GPA: Livron sur Drôme and Loriol sur Drôme.

Each of the roofs are 80 feet wide and up to 500 feet long. They are designed to facilitate easy forklift operations with 20 -30-foot-high roofs.

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View of vehicles stored below the solar panels

This production of renewable energy will offset the release of more than 614 tonnes of CO2 per year into the atmosphere. This project required an investment of 11 million euros. 400,000 euros of this amount had to be crowdfunded. The project was so interesting for the local communities that the remaining 400,000 euros was funded in exactly 23 minutes!

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General view of GPA. The vehicles are protected under roofs equipped with solar panels

When asked if this project was established for GPAs own financial benefit, Johan Renaud clarified that GPA owns only 5% of the shares, the rest are owned by energy operators, local authorities, and individuals. The shareholders will receive a yearly return on investment of 5% supported by the State, which pays the difference between the production and selling cost of the electricity.

Johan further explains that through its business activity, a vehicle recycler is already an actor of sustainable development, but GPA wanted to go a step further in giving back to the community that it has proudly been a part of. He also acknowledges that the same community has always supported GPA as well especially when the company was extending its footprint in the area.

The solar project imposes restrictions on GPA, which they have readily accepted for the greater good. The project binds GPA for 30 years and will prevent them from making architectural changes. Secondly, a risk related to fire safety with the electric panels. Indeed, the solar panels cannot be isolated in case of intervention of the fire brigade.

The disadvantages are offset by multiple advantages of the shade houses and should be the focus of the companies looking to make similar efforts in their own communities. Besides protecting from harsh weather conditions, the roofs prevent the rain from washing away chemicals from the damaged vehicles. This ensures that the water entering the facility de-oilers is as clean as possible for their treatment before discharging into the environment. In addition, the employees have a covered place equipped with lights to work on the vehicles. Lastly, GPA is a net producer of electricity as the electricity produced by the solar panels is greater than the electricity used for the company’s production operations.

For GPA, there is no effort too big or small when it comes to meeting their sustainability goals. They hope to set many such examples for many more decades to come and leave a proud legacy for the following generations. They are proud to share their story, for they know that it is the combined effort of all which will have a larger impact in protecting the environment.

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