Second offshore tender only covers 1.3GW

FRANCE: French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced last month that a second tender for the development of 1.3GW of offshore wind capacity will be launched by the end of the year. The industry welcomed the news, although it had hoped for more.

Given that only 1.9GW was awarded in the first round in April, there is little chance that France will reach its offshore target of 6GW by 2020.

As expected, the tender will comprise just two zones: 750MW off Le Treport in the English Channel and 600MW near the Isle of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast. The Le Treport zone was also offered in the first tender, when a consortium led by utility GDF-Suez was the sole bidder. The government decided not to award rights because it considered the electricity price too high. GDF will now be able to rebid, and is again likely to be the only company declaring an interest.

There will be more competition for the Noirmoutier zone, with bidders likely to include French developers Nass & Wind Offshore and Neoen Marine, as well as German developer WPD Offshore.

Slow process

Meanwhile, the consortia led by EDF Energies Nouvelles and Iberdrola awarded the four projects in the first tender are now carrying out detailed feasibility studies.

They are holding talks with potential industrial partners and preparing for national public debates - obligatory for projects deemed of national interest - to take place next year. Although non-binding, the debates can lead to developers amending their projects. Even if everything goes smoothly, it is unlikely any turbines will be commissioned before 2017.

While nothing has been confirmed, there are signs that the government is considering a third tender for the remaining 3GW of capacity. Once again, the industry hopes larger zones will be designated.

Further out to sea

Looking further ahead, there may be offshore tenders in France's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) beyond the 12-nautical-mile limit. Being less visible, the projects would attract less opposition, said Philippe Gouverneur, offshore spokesperson for the French Wind Energy Association.

Perhaps with this in mind, the government is preparing a decree to allow for energy production within the EEZ, Gouverneur added.

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