450MW Courseulles-sur-Mer details released

Capacity minimised to reduce visual impact & avoid fishing areas

The capacity of an offshore wind farm planned for French waters in the English Channel has been minimised slightly to reduce visual impacts and to avoid prized fishing areas. A 450MW project is now planned instead of a maximum allowable capacity of 500MW.

Development consortium Eolien Maritime France (EMF) has revealed project details for its Courseulles-sur-Mer project as part of an official national public debate taking place this spring. Documentation submitted by EMF confirms that turbines would be installed at least 10km offshore, in depths of 21-33m and covering a 50km² area.

The tender allowed for up to 500MW in 77km², but EMF member companies - EDF EN, Dong Energy and WPD Offshore (15%) - have designed a smaller project. This should minimise visual impacts from the Second World War site of Arromanches and avoid local fishing areas. Alstom is to supply 75 of its Haliade 6MW turbines.

Total investment is estimated at €1.8bn, including grid connection, while annual operation and maintenance (O&M) costs are set at around €50m.

Preliminary geotechnical studies suggest monopile foundations will be the best solution, although this choice will be confirmed once more detailed studies are carried out.

Foundations will probably be manufactured at Cherbourg, provided the quay is ready in time. The consortium has also reserved 15ha at Cherbourg for assembling turbines next to Alstom’s planned blade and tower factories. Nacelles and generators will be delivered from Alstom's factories at Saint Nazaire.

Caen-Ouistreham will be the project’s O&M base, while the preferred location for grid connection is Ranville, just north of Caen. Preparatory work on the ports of Cherbourg and Caen-Ouistreham should begin in 2015-16.

Overall, creation of 400 jobs during the wind farm’s construction are forecast by EMF, with a further one hundred long-term O&M posts.

One potential fly in the ointment is location of the project near Arromanches and the Normandy, memorial sites commemorating the D-Day landings during the Second World War. Some veterans groups have voiced opposition, while others have indicated support.

Following the national public debate, the Couseulles-sur-Mer project will go to public inquiry. If this goes smoothly, permits should be issued by mid-2015, allowing EMF's project development company, Éoliennes Offshore du Calvados, to make a final investment decision by the end of that year. All being well, the first foundations will be installed in 2017 and the first turbines twelve months later.

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