Insurer warns of higher risks for French projects

Lack of supplier competition & collision hazards concern

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France's ‘domestic’ approach to offshore wind procurement as well as site-specific safety issues could result in higher costs for projects being developed in its waters, warns Jatin Sharma, head of offshore underwriting at renewable energy insurer, GCube.

The French government’s requirement that offshore wind developers create hundreds of domestic manufacturing jobs means that many of the sector’s most experienced suppliers are unlikely to become involved. "Arguably, if you are building a new market with a very limited supply chain, projects could cost more," says Sharma.

"Protection results in limited competition and increased risk," he argues, while also recognising that France has a number of world-leading suppliers, such as cable manufacturer, Nexans, and companies with technical knowledge derived from the oil and gas sector, such as Technip.

Another concern is potential for higher risk of marine collisions and damage to cables and turbines. The six projects allocated or up for tender in France are closer to shipping lanes and other marine traffic than those in the UK, Germany or Scandinavia, notes Sharma.

With experience of insuring more than thirty offshore wind farms, GCube has detailed knowledge of the frequency and types of damage that have already occurred within offshore wind sites. However well installations are marked there is still a risk of accidents.

Sharma offers the example of a fishing vessel taking a shortcut through a wind farm and damaging a turbine foundation, leading to an insurance claim of €1.5m.

Unexploded ordnance dating back to the Second World War is another risk that must be considered for projects off France’s Channel coast. Although the project zones have been subject to a superficial screening process, developers have not yet carried out detailed studies of the seabed. Until they do, the extent of the problem is not clear, argues Sharma.


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