Partnership aims for head start in French offshore wind tender

FRANCE: An alliance between French renewables giant EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN) and turbine manufacturer Alstom is jostling for prime position as France's government prepares to launch the tender for five offshore development zones worth 3GW next month.

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The winning bids will be announced early next year, with the first turbines due to start operating in 2015.

EDF EN and Alstom signed an exclusive agreement to submit joint bids and collaborate on the construction of offshore plant developed by EDF EN and its partners in January. Under the deal, any project the alliance builds will be equipped with the 6MW offshore turbine Alstom is developing. The company is currently looking for a test site in France or elsewhere in Europe to install an onshore prototype later this year. An offshore prototype will be ready in 2012, followed by pre-series production in 2013 and series production in 2014.

Thinking big

Indications are that the offshore tender will favour larger turbines. Four of the five zones will require at least one 5MW turbine per square kilometre to achieve the target capacity. The most restricted site, off St-Nazaire, foresees 750MW in 78 square kilometres, representing a density of more than 9MW per square kilometre - assuming the whole area can be used.

These are large projects of 500-750MW each, requiring solid, well-financed companies capable of financing - and managing - such projects.

EDF EN already boasts several years of offshore experience as part of the C-Power consortium constructing the 325MW Thornton Bank facility in Belgian waters. It is also about to start building a 67MW plant off the coast of north-east England at Teesside. In addition, EDF EN has the advantage of government backing via its parent company, utility EDF, which is majority-owned by the French government.

While it is too early for specifics, the two companies indicate their proposals could lead to the creation of several new factories and hundreds of jobs. "This partnership illustrates our determination ... to participate in the emergence of new industries in France and to harness our leadership position in renewable-electricity generation as part of long-term industrial dynamics," says Yvon Andre, chief operating officer of EDF EN.

Such plans will play a significant role in the selection of the winning bids. The government will allocate up to 40 points each according to the proposed price and the industrial component, including plans to establish local supply lines and create jobs. The remaining 20 points will be awarded for proposals covering environmental issues and potential conflict with fishermen and other users of the maritime resource.

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