Jeumont, France's huge ailing electric concern with a history of nuclear involvement, is soon to apply its expertise in the field of wind energy. The first step of this momentous conversion is a proposed alliance with a wind company, most likely Nordtank of Denmark. This will involve assembly of turbines and integration of locally built parts. Whether or not the alliance will go ahead depends on the outcome of the first request for proposals under Eole 2005, a wind programme launched last year by national utility Electricté de France. Bids have been invited for supply of an initial 15 MW. According to Jeumont's Jean-Marc Canini, the firm is prepared to get involved at this level as a gesture of support for the new sector in France, but will need orders for at least 50 MW a year to stay in the business after the first three years. Jeumont is expecting backing from both local government and the European Union. Its home town has record unemployment and is eligible for regional support from the EU. Some observers, however, fear the new venture will be short-lived. They remember forays into wind energy by both the shipping and aerospace industries in France which failed to even produce a viable wind turbine. Jeumont claims that as well as its initial alliance with a wind company, it will be designing its own variable speed wind turbine, with a prototype ready by 1998. Patents are being applied for, but according to Canini, Jeumont says its design will not impinge on other variable speed patents, such as that of bankrupt Kenetech of California. The innovative technology, transferred in particular from military research, will involve compact designs acceptable for integration in classical industrial turbine technology, says Canini.
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