November 30, 2021

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J.-M. Bouchet and L. Blanchard (Qair): 2.0 success in renewable energies



The Languedocien Jean-Marc Bouchet, 62, is a repeat offender: serial entrepreneur of renewable energies for 30 years and already winner of an Entrepreneur’s Prize in 2013. He was then the manager of the Quadran group, sold in 2017 to Direct Energie, then bought by Total. The entrepreneur had only kept production sites in Mauritius and nascent marine activity in France.

Qair (originally called Qadran International) was therefore born in Montpellier (Hérault) in 2017 to continue these activities, and by joining forces with Louis Blanchard, 41, founder of the French entity of the investment bank Taylor -DeJongh who accompanied him for ten years. Louis Blanchard, who became chairman of Qair in March 2021, Jean-Marc Bouchet took a step back and chaired the supervisory board, but still holds 65% of the capital, alongside Taylor-DeJongh and the RGreen Invest fund which has reinvested 45 million euros in June 2021.

Two-thirds wind and one-third solar

The energy company has grown considerably in four years. Qair went from 9 to 500 megawatts in operation in 16 countries, by buying a dozen project developers in Europe, Brazil and Vietnam. “To prime the pump, two-thirds of our growth has been through buyouts, but this model will be reversed,” explains Louis Blanchard. The health crisis has accelerated the energy transition and we want to reach 5 gigawatts in five years, split 50/50 between wind and solar. “

Generation capacity will even reach 1 gigawatt next year, two-thirds with wind power and one-third with solar. The company will commission a large complex of wind turbines and 400 megawatt photovoltaic power plant near Fortaleza in Brazil. This 400 million euro project is so important that the Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has built a blade factory on site! “We finance our facilities with long-term loans because the production of renewable energy generates a predictable cash flow”, adds the manager. Qair sells to electricity companies and industrialists with long contracts.

A sector for green hydrogen

In France, Qair is preparing, for 2023, a pre-commercial demonstrator of three large floating wind turbines of 10 megawatts each in the Mediterranean, off Gruissan (Aude). He is leading a consortium that brings together the Occitanie region, Grand Narbonne and TotalEnergies in particular. Floating wind turbines keep wind turbines away from the coast to reduce their visual impact and improve their performance.

Qair will then install, still in Occitania, an electrolyser which will transform electricity from wind turbines into “green” hydrogen intended to supply trucks, trains and planes. “We are trying to develop outlets for green hydrogen, which is still too expensive,” recognizes Louis Blanchard. Qair employs 300 people, a third of whom are in France in Montpellier, Paris and Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude), but does not disclose its turnover.

* The Entrepreneur of the Year award is organized by EY, in partnership with HSBC, Verlingue, Steelcase and Bpifrance.

correspondent in Toulouse