The project was launched in 2006 by Nénuphar, a Lille-based company co-founded by Charles Smadja and Frédéric Silvert.
View full size picture of the Vertiwind turbine.
EDF Energies Nouvelles and Technip have since come on board as partners, with Technip responsible for designing the platform, mooring system and connection cable as well as on-site installation.
The prototype, which has been operating since May, is real size but consists of the first of what will eventually be three levels of blades.
A prototype is now scheduled for 2017 at the Mistral test site 5 kilometres off nearby Port-St-Louis. It will be followed by a pilot farm of 13 turbines installed 23 kilometres offshore.
The next stage will be to replace this first version with a second prototype comprising all three levels. It will be installed at the same test site at Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseilles, in 2015.
In May Areva took a EUR5 million stake, saying it would bring its experience in offshore wind and industrial expertise to help develop – and possibly manufacture – the turbine.
While the concept has evolved over the years, the principle remains the same: the machine's low centre of gravity makes it more stable and minimises the gyroscopic effects.
It also means the floating platform can be smaller, and cheaper, and the whole unit can be assembled at quayside. Nénuphar claims a 30% reduction in investment and operations and maintenance costs compared to current offshore turbines.