France focuses on floating test sites

Four locations for demonstration projects in the pipeline

As France prepares to build its first ‘conventional’ offshore wind installations, due to come online from 2018, the country is also pressing ahead with floating wind energy technology. Four demonstration sites are being planned and the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) is calling on the French government to introduce financial support for pilot floating wind capacity as a matter of urgency.

"This step is a prerequisite for future investments in commercial farms consisting of several hundred machines," says SER.


The SEM-REV site is already fully permitted and ready to go. Located in the Atlantic, 20km off Le Croisic, it is owned and operated by Ecole Centrale Nantes (ECN), an engineering school, with support from France Energies Marines (FEM), a research institute established last year to promote marine energy projects.

The site has a grid connection capacity of 8MW and can accommodate up to four floating platforms mounted with turbines and/or wave and tidal generation devices. The first will be a Winflo prototype, consisting of a 1MW Vergnet turbine mounted on a platform by DCNS, developed in partnership with Nass&Wind Offshore. It is scheduled for installation in early 2014, for a 12-18 month test.

The SEM-REV site is relatively close to shore, where machines can be anchored easily and where weather conditions are not extreme. Just 1km² in size and with water depths of 35-40m, the SEM-REV site will not be able to accommodate platform designs requiring deeper depths, acknowledges Sébastien Ybert, manager of FEM's test sites.

Le Groix

A second, larger test site further west along the Brittany coast from Le Croisic is also under development by FEM and the Winflo team of Nass&Wind, DCNS and Vergnet. It will be split into two sections, each with a capacity of at least 6MW. The first section will feature individual machines, including a commercial-scale, multi-megawatt Winflo prototype. The second section is intended for a pilot "mini-wind farm" comprising four-to-six turbines.

Work is underway to select a precise location. Sea depths in the area under study are 60-70m, with much rougher conditions similar to those further out into the Atlantic. Regulatory consent is expected in 2014, with the site earmarked to begin operation by mid-2017.


A test site in the Mediterranean is also being developed by FEM, off Fos-sur-Mer. In this case, FEM is partnering with EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN) and Nénuphar, two companies behind the Vertiwind vertical-axis turbine. The Mistral site will be used to test two versions of the 2MW Vertiwind turbine for 18 months, after which it will be available to test to other technology.

Lying about 5km offshore, in water 60-70m deep, the site will have a combined capacity of 6MW and, initially, two grid connections. A company to own and operate the Mistral site will be established, with regulatory consent expected early next year and operation beginning in late 2014 or early 2015.

In parallel, EDF EN is seeking permission to develop another site further offshore in the Mediterranean. If the Mistral tests are successful, it will use this site for a pilot project of, perhaps, up to 13 Vertiwind turbines.

Côte d'Albâtre

Meanwhile, Enertrag hopes to create a test site 6km off Veulettes-sur-Mer. Enertrag was originally selected to develop a 105MW project in this location in 2005, but ran into legal challenges. Consent has now been granted, and Enertrag is pursuing creation of a site along the lines of Germany's Alpha Ventus, where several companies can test their designs.

The company is in talks with potential industrial partners as well as with the government about increasing the tariff operators would receive for electricity produced at the site.

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