€2bn Saint Nazaire project takes shape

480MW planned for 78km² area off France's Atlantic coast

A wind farm planned for waters off Saint Nazaire, on France’s Atlantic coast, will have a capacity of 480MW, significantly lower than the maximum allowable capacity outlined for the site by the French government.

Planned for a site 12km from shore in water depths of 12-20m, the project was earmarked for a capacity of 420-750MW. Given the zone is only 78km², the upper end of this range was always ambitious.

Documents outlining the proposed Saint Nazaire project are now available as part of a government-sanctioned national public debate taking place this spring. Similar details about three other offshore wind projects have already been reported by Windpower Offshore.

The Saint Nazaire concession is being developed by Eolien Maritime France (EMF), a consortium comprising EDF Energies Nouvelles and Dong Energy. A project company has been created, Parc du banc de Guérande, while the site’s original developer Nass&Wind Offshore is still involved as a partner but has not retained equity.

Alstom will supply 80 of its Haliade 6MW turbines from its factories at Saint Nazaire and Cherbourg. Total investment is estimated at €2bn, including grid connection works, while operation and maintenance (O&M) is forecast at €60m a year. EMF expects the project to create 400 direct jobs during construction, with a further 100 long-term O&M posts.

EMF has reserved space at the port of Saint Nazaire for turbine assembly, but has not yet made a final decision about whether it will use the port as its construction base. It is also considering Brest. Meanwhile, La Turballe, northwest of Saint Nazaire, will act as the project’s O&M port, where there are  plans for construction of a pontoon and installation of lifting gear.

A contract has yet to be awarded for production of monopile foundations. Grid connection will probably be achieved via an onshore substation between Pontchateau and Cordemais.

There are biodiversity issues to consider, with common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and to a lesser extent, pilot whales found in the project area. In order to limit disturbance to marine mammals, EMF is investigating methods of reducing noise levels during pile driving. The company has funded several noise minimisation studies, with options including a gradual start to drilling or use of a noise-reduction curtain.

Following this year’s national public debate, the project should go to public inquiry next year. If there are no delays, permitting should be completed by mid-2015, with a final investment decision due by the end of that year.

Port works are scheduled to begin in 2015-16, with installation of foundations beginning in 2017, followed by the first turbines in 2018. RTE anticipates that the first phase of grid connection should be operational by mid-2018.

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