With energy costs soaring, bakeries across France have had their profit margins squeezed.
But one in Normandy might have found the perfect solution.
NeoLoco, based in Montville north of Rouen, uses solar power to bake its bread.
Founder Arnaud Crétot uses a “wall of mirrors” to concentrate sunbeams on a fixed point, which allows him to heat a stainless steel “solar oven“. There are no fancy electronics, just the oven and 69 glass mirrors facing it. They are mounted on wheels, enabling them to be moved to follow the sun,
Mr Crétot said: "It heats up very quickly, at the same power as a conventional bakery oven."
He added the Normandy climate allows him to bake around 110kg of bread on sunny winter days and 240kg in the summer.
For days when there is not enough sun, the bakery has a wood-fired oven.
Mr Crétot, a trained solar energy engineer, sells the bread at €5.50 a kilo and it is delivered to eight shops in the local area by electric bicycle. He also uses his creation to roast locally found organic cereals.
With bakeries across France struggling with high energy costs, Mr Crétot says the current system is “condemned”.
Speaking of a tipping point being reached, he added: “We must agree to work with the change in our culture, organisation. The West is well adapted to continued energy, oil, nuclear, gas etc. If humans are not able to fuel their small-scale activities with the energy that fuels all the planet’s ecosystems, it is due to either a lack of intelligence or a lack of wisdom”.
“The energy problem is not so much technical as social.”
Mr Crétot has also written a book La boulangerie solaire (the solar bakery) about his business and how it was inspired by his trip after university.
He spent a year travelling to study energy, including visits to gas fields in the North Sea, Finnish tidal turbines and solar power plants in Andalusia.