Tender launched for French overseas territories

FRANCE: The French government has called for up to 95MW of installed wind capacity on the island of Corsica and a number of its overseas territories, all of which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels despite having considerable renewable energy resources.

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The aim is to revive wind power deployment for these regions to meet at least 50% of their final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and eventually to become energy independent.

This goal was adopted in 2009 as part of the Grenelle de l'Environnement, a national debate to determine environmental policy. Installed wind power capacity in the targeted territories currently stands at 56MW (see table).

The tender covers five tranches: Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and its dependencies Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin, Martinique in the Caribbean, French Guiana in South America, Reunion off the coast of Africa and Corsica off the coast of France.

Each tranche specifies the maximum number of projects and installed capacity open to tender. The selected projects, which are expected to be completed by 2013, will be eligible for a 20-year power supply contract with the largely state-owned utility EdF.

With the territories all served by isolated grids, the tender also stipulates that projects must be equipped with wind forecasting capabilities and storage systems to allow higher levels of variable renewable energy onto the wires without compromising network stability. At present, the limit of renewable energy allowed onto the grid is 30%. The government hopes to attract technically innovative projects and to "offer the industry an opportunity to develop solutions of interest to a much larger market", said former energy minister Jean-Louis Borloo when launching the tender.

Bids must be submitted by May, with successful candidates to be announced by the end of the year. The government says it will then probably launch a second tender, enhanced by lessons learned from the first proposals.

The move is good news for the French turbine manufacturer Vergnet. As well as co-developing projects, the company specialises in producing turbines capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and of supporting weak and unreliable grids. Since 1993, Vergnet has supplied over 400 turbines to often challenging locations overseas.

Aerowatt, another pioneer of wind energy in tropical locations, also welcomes the initiative. The owner-operator has installed over 60MW in the French overseas territories and is also researching various forms of energy storage.

Major growth required
The tender is split into five regions

Location Max number of Max tender Currently
tender projects capacity (MW) operating (MW)
Guadeloupe, 3 20 27
St-Barthelemy & St-Martin
French Guiana 1 15 0
Martinique 3 20 1
La Reunion 3 20 10
Corsica 3 20 18
Total 13 95 56

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