Documentation has begun to be submitted to French authorities by EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDFEN) in support of its plans to construct three offshore wind farms in French waters – in partnership with Dong, Nass & Wind, and WPD Offshore.
The three projects will have a combined capacity just under 1430MW.
Speaking with Windpower Offshore, EDFEN offshore wind development director, Béatrice Buffon, outlined the company's strategy, following the French energy ministry's decision in April to grant the consortium the right to proceed with plans in three offshore wind development zones.
An important step forward is submission this month of documentation to France's National Commission for Public Debate. The commission will decide whether the EDFEN-led consortium's plans warrant an official public debate.
Public debates managed by the commission have a clearly-defined timetable, and the entire process must be completed within a year of a developer's submission of documentation. If the commission decides that public debate is necessary, the prescribed four months of debate is likely to take place during the first months of 2013 and a final report published by the commission around mid-2013, says Buffon.
The commission itself will decide how many public meetings should take place and the topics to be discussed. Following debate, the commission will publish a report, the conclusions of which may prompt the consortium to revise its plans.
Multiple regulatory hurdles
In addition, a plethora of work is underway at the three offshore development sites, designed to ensure that all geotechnical, environmental and wind measurement issues are examined. These will be used by the energy ministry to judge whether the consortium's plans are viable, with a file due for submission to the ministry no later than October 2013.
Ongoing technical and environmental studies will also form the basis of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and other documentation to be presented to three regional préfets in the second half of 2013. It is the préfets that will grant the crucial concession permits, allowing construction to begin.
How long it will take the préfets to come to their decisions is less clear, explains Buffon, adding that public inquiries will form part of the process. By law, this part of the process must examine issues such as safety, landscape impacts and adherence to the environmental code.
EDFEN hopes concession permits will be issued during the second half of 2014. However, Buffon concedes that each préfet will set its own pace, making it likely that the three projects' permitting timetables will diverge somewhat.
Financial close earmarked for 2015
Faced with such a multi-agency regulatory process, the consortium hopes to begin choosing its industrial partners in 2013, but most tenders are earmarked for 2014. Dong will contribute to management of the procurement process and the consortium plans to take a multi-contractor approach, rather than opting for a global EPC contractor, confirms Buffon.
Looking ahead, a final investment decision is currently forecast for mid-2015, with construction beginning in 2016 and commissioning anticipated for 2018.
"We expect there will be groups opposed to our projects and we will have to face that," notes Buffon. However, development partners Nass & Wind and WPD Offshore have been consulting with local stakeholders for five years. "A key factor in securing public acceptance is our industrial plan and the jobs that will be created. People will see the new factories."
The consortium's three projects come with the promise of 5,000 jobs to be created by turbine manufacturer Alstom, with a further 2,000 forecast to be created in other parts of the supply chain.