Biarritz solar benches prompt jokes over ‘no sit’ rule

New benches in Biarritz with solar panels built into the seats have prompted mockery on social media, after it was reported that people should “avoid sitting on them during sunnier hours”.

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Three benches, with electricity-producing solar panels embedded into the seats, were installed in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) town to coincide with the G7 summit set to take place August 24-26.

The benches prompted mockery after a mayoral assistant - Guillame Barucq - announced their installation on Twitter, but asked people to “not sit on them too much during the sunniest times of day, so that they can produce maximum [power].”

One user joked: “All this needs is an electric sign powered by the bench, that says ‘no sitting’.” Another said: “Hopefully soon they will install solar panel pavements that we should not walk on.”

But Mr Barucq joined in the fun, saying: “These benches on which you can sit, but for not too long…[are] a revolutionary concept in the fight against inactivity!”

More seriously, Mr Barucq said: “If we want to produce the most [power], we must avoid having people sitting on them permanently, during times of strong sunshine. But the benches are wide, so they work even with two or three people sitting on them. And they work all the time, all year round.”

The benches - which are said to be “slightly warm” to use - also allow users to charge their phones via USB or wireless charging, and access WiFi.

Two other benches in the town are also connected to solar - and all are powered by electricity company Engie. It is hoped that the town will be able to buy some of the benches to continue using them after the G7 summit is over - despite the cost of €6,000 - €8,000 each.

Mr Barqucq said: “All of this is done thanks to Engie, which has also installed solar panels in front of the press centre. France wants to reduce its environmental impact as much as possible by using renewable energy.

“We are taking advantage of the G7 to demonstrate these inventions and this has cost us [the town] absolutely nothing. They are really a tool to raise awareness of renewable energy [sources], which is a mature sector that French people know very little about.”

The benches form part of a wider move by Biarritz to install 14 solar panel points across the town, including in schools, car parks, and on large roofs.

The plan is to cover 82% of the town’s current electricity consumption with solar power energy, within the next two to three years, Mr Barucq said.

He added: “We want the town to be completely independent thanks to solar power, and this will happen through micro-solutions, such as these benches. The city of Cannes has had similar since last year, and the idea was well-received by residents there.”

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