France needs state-supported floating pilots

Report says government must act quickly to establish industrial base

France should install pilots for floating wind turbines within two years if it wants to realise its potential in the sector, says a report on marine renewable energies commissioned by the government.

In France, Winflo and Nénuphar have plans to install demonstration floating turbines at sea in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The report says the government should prepare a call for tenders for pilot farms in 2014-15, to be operational by 2017. This would prepare the way for industrial-scale facilities of over 100MW from 2018-20.

Such experimental farms would give the industry much-needed visibility and experience in real operating conditions before proceeding to large-scale commercial deployment, the report notes. They would also allow the sharing of costs such as grid connection and impact studies.

State support during the initial stages is essential, the report adds. It also notes how difficult it is to estimate the cost of mounting such experimental installations. The regulatory framework must be simplified and a one-stop shop created within the French administration to further reduce delays. The authorities should also simplify grid-connection rules and plan well ahead to ensure links are made in a timely manner, the report recommends.

The industry welcomes the report but is disappointed at its lack of vision on marine spatial planning, says Philippe Gouverneur, offshore spokesman for the French wind energy association FEE. "The report gives the impression that the planners should simply look at the space available [for offshore wind]," he told Windpower Offshore. "But they should go back to a level playing field and look at the whole resource, looking at where it is technically feasible."

Various experimental sites are already under development in France. In the Mediterranean, for example, Nénuphar and EDF EN are seeking permission to build a pilot farm of around a dozen Vertiwind turbines.

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