The inauguration of the 11 MW Clef des Champs wind farm in September saw some of the largest turbines yet installed in France come online. The project, near St-Quentin in the Aisne department of Picardy, consists of four NM 2.75 MW turbines from Vestas. It was developed by EDF Énergies Nouvelles, the renewables arm of French utility EDF, in association with Espace Eolien Développement (EED). EDF Énergies Nouvelles will also operate the plant. The project was finished in what for France was a record-breaking two years, half the time it normally takes. EDF Énergies Nouvelles says delays were kept to a minimum because the local authority gave its full support to the project. Also key was the completion on time of the paperwork by the administrative bodies involved. The plant is built on a former NATO airbase, which was bought by the local authority, the Communauté de Communes du Canton de Saint-Simon, in 2001 to be developed for its economic and cultural potential. The president of the Communauté de Communes, Roland Renard, says that winning local support was not difficult. The local community will benefit to the tune of EUR 85,000 a year in the form of business taxes and rental income. This money will be used to convert the NATO barracks into music schools, a library and function rooms. A business park will also be established. Renard believes the wind farm will provide a major attraction to companies wishing to set up in the area. "It's a big bonus for businesses to say they have access to a clean energy source," he says. "It shows a willingness to participate in environmental protection and lends a positive image." The site will be further developed as a tourist attraction, with plans for a visitors' centre. Renard argues that far from destroying the countryside, the turbines bring added interest to the landscape.
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