500MW Saint Brieuc project takes shape

Detailed plans submitted by Iberdrola & Eole-RES

Details about the 500MW project being developed by Iberdrola and Eole-RES in French waters off Saint Brieuc are now available.

The two firms have created a project company, Ailes Marines, to oversee construction and operation of the project, with Iberdrola holding a majority 70% stake. Areva is to supply 100 of its 5MW turbines.

Documents submitted by Ailes Marines to the National Commission for Public Debate show that the project's footprint has been reduced to 77km², from the 180km² area offered in the French energy ministry tender. The siting of turbines within a smaller area has been driven, in part, by Ailes Marines’ efforts to protect local fishing activities and to maximise distance from conservation areas. Most of the turbines will be more than 20km from shore. The project’s planned capacity remains 500MW and the smaller site features a maximum water depth of 41m.

The Saint Brieuc offshore wind farm represents a total investment of around €2bn, according to Ailes Marines. The company has provided a breakdown of costs:

-         5% during the development phase

-         47% for turbine manufacture and commissioning

-         37% for foundations

-         4% for the offshore substation

-         5% for inter-array cables

-         2% for miscellaneous expenditure, such as the construction of offices.

Crucially, the costs associated with connecting the project’s offshore substation to an onshore transformer station are not included in the €2bn price tag. These will total an additional €190m, according to an estimate submitted by electricity transmission operator, RTE. All being well, RTE will get the go-ahead to install an export cable and associated infrastructure by mid-2016 and will complete the project in two phases, with the first coming into service mid-2018 and the second a year later.

According to terms included in the original project tender, Ailes Marines must ensure that  20% of turbines are operational by 2019. This deadline may prove difficult, since many involved in France’s emerging offshore wind industry fear a legal challenge will be mounted in the face of RTE’s proposed grid connection works.

As previously reported by Windpower Offshore, a public debate about the Saint Brieuc project will begin in late March and end in July. In the meantime, Ailes Marines is in the process of building its supply chain. Turbine supplier, Areva, will build two factories at Le Havre to produce nacelles and blades and it has signed letters of intent with 14 potential suppliers, thus far.

Eiffage and STX France are competing to design and manufacture the foundations and offshore substation, probably at Brest. Jacket foundations remain Ailes Marines’ preference. Technip will be responsible for installation and logistics, while Ailes Marines is in discussions with a number of companies regarding supply of cables, including Silec Cable, JDR, Nexans and Prysmian.

The choice of a base port for post-installation operations and maintenance has been narrowed to three: Erquy, St-Cast-le-Guildo and St-Quay-Portrieux.

The committee overseeing the Saint Brieuc public debate must publish its conclusions by 23 September, after which Ailes Marines has three months to decide whether to proceed, put the project on hold, or abandon it.

If the consortium chooses to proceed without delay, it must apply for the right to occupy the maritime domain and authorisation under environmental law by mid-2014. The project would then be subject to a public enquiry, to be concluded in early 2015, after which construction permits would be issued. Based on such a schedule, installation and commissioning in three phases would take place from 2018 to 2020.

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