Details emerge on 498MW Fécamp project

€2bn development planned in English Channel

Further details are now available, regarding the planned 498MW Fécamp project in the English Channel. Awarded in the first round of France's offshore tender, the project is owned by Eolien Maritime France (EMF), a consortium of EDF Energies Nouvelles and DONG Energy. WPD Offshore – the original developer – holds a 30% stake.

Construction and operation will be overseen by the project company, Éoliennes Offshore des Hautes Falaises. Alstom will supply 83 of its new 6MW Haliade turbines. Documents submitted to the National Commission for Public Debate confirm that the footprint will occupy 65km2 of the available 88km2. The turbines will be placed at least 13km offshore, in waters 26.5m to 32.5m deep.

Preliminary geotechnical studies carried out in 2011 revealed a sea bed of gravel and pebbles, making gravity-based foundations the best solution. Further studies planned for this year and next should confirm that choice. The zone lies within a Natura 2000 protected site, but it covers less than 4% of the area and initial studies have highlighted no major problems. Further surveys will be undertaken, as part of the environmental impact assessment.

The chosen alignment of the turbines means they will have a minimal visual impact from the cliffs at Etretat, and on fishing in the area. Local fishermen have been working with the developers since 2008, to identify the best configuration. A liaison group will anticipate and resolve potential conflicts, monitor the fisheries resource and assess the impact on marine biodiversity.

The foundations will be manufactured at Le Havre and 30 hectares have already been reserved on the quayside, alongside a further 10 hectares for submerged storage. It is also planned to assemble the turbines at Le Havre, "subject to the availability of a suitable site and carrying out certain modifications."

The nacelles and generators will be shipped from Alstom's factories in St-Nazaire, while the blades and masts will come from Cherbourg. Fécamp will serve as the maintenance base, while grid connection is slated for Sainneville, northeast of Le Havre. Boats used during construction and operation will probably be maintained at Dieppe. All being well, work on the ports will start in 2015-16, with the first foundations being installed in 2017. The first turbines would follow in 2018.

The company estimates it will create 800 direct jobs in foundations construction, turbine assembly and installation. Around 100 engineers, technical staff and sailors will be required for operations and maintenance (O&M). Alstom expects to create a further 1,000 direct and 4,000 indirect jobs, in the production of up to 100 turbines a year at its factories.

Once the national public debate is concluded and Éoliennes Offshore des Hautes Falaises confirms its intention to proceed, the project will go to public inquiry as part of the permitting process. This should take place in 2014, with the permits being approved by mid-2015. The total investment is estimated at €2bn, while annual O&M costs would be around €60m. A final investment decision would be made in late-2015.

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