Wind turbines to face further constraints in France

FRANCE: Gaining permits to erect industry-scale wind-power plant in France is set to become even more complex, the industry has warned, after rules subjecting plant to a strict environmental-protection regime were issued last week.

A wind farm at Le Vieux Moulin, France

Under the government decree implementing last year’s Grenelle 2 law, all wind turbines with a tower height of more than 50 metres — and those above 12 metres tall installed in plant with a capacity of 20MW or more — must seek "authorisation".

This is the strictest level of compliance under the so-called ICPE regulations, which cover industries classified for the protection of the environment. Plant under 20MW capacity with turbines 12 to 50 metres tall only need to go through a simpler "declaration" procedure.
Turbines subject to the authorisation provisions must be at least ten to 30 kilometres from meteorological radars, depending on the type of radar, at least 15 to 30 kilometres from civil aviation radars and ten to 20 kilometres from coastal radars. The rules are waived if developers obtain the written agreement of the relevant radar operator.

Because military radars are deemed not to be significantly affected by turbines, it is up to the developer and the military authorities to come to an agreement.

In a concession to the wind-power industry, the distances specified in the decree will be reviewed within 18 months of a significant advance in radar technology.
Financial guarantees

The industry also won a concession regarding financial guarantees to cover the dismantling of wind-power plant. The government had previously indicated operators would have to deposit €50,000 a turbine in cash in a designated bank before the plant came into service.
The regulations now state that the sum can be in the form of a bank guarantee. Plant already operating must conform within four years.

According to French environment minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the new regulations "will reduce the permitting process to one year for the vast majority of projects" and will spare them "from ever-longer procedures and increased litigation at the local level".
The industry said the new rules would lead to more litigation, not less. "The ICPE regulation opens a new opportunity to launch an appeal against a project," said a spokesperson from trade association Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER).
SER also points out that the regulations add yet another layer to an already onerous permitting process. It can take up to eight years to get a permit in France, against an average 4-5 years in the rest of Europe, says SER.