The three offshore wind projects being developed by consortia led by EDF have been designated as projects of "national interest" by France’s National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP).
Such categorisation means that time-limited public debates will be organised by the CNDP next year. They will concern Saint Nazaire, Courseulles-sur-Mer and Fécamp, one for each project.
In order to prevent the public debate process from delaying project development, the CDNP must ensure debates take place – and final summaries published – within a year of a developer’s application. Windpower Offshore understands that all necessary documentation from the development consortia was received by the CDNP last month, suggesting that final summaries of the debates must be issued no later than June 2013.
The three public debates are likely to focus on environmental impacts of the projects and their onshore infrastructure, such as impacts on marine mammals as well as on visibility and landscape issues. The socio-economic consequences of the projects will also be up for discussion, including the issue of job creation.
The debates will be the first for the French wind energy sector since one held in 2010 about La Compagnie du Vent’s Le Treport project. This cost La Compagnie du Vent several hundred thousand euros and prompted considerable alteration in the project plans.
It is not clear whether these debates will result in significant changes to the projects’ development, since discussions have been taking place for several years with many stakeholders. In some cases, agreements have been reached with local fisherman. In addition, the locations of the projects were subject to stakeholder consultation.
A public debate is also likely to be ordered for the fourth French offshore wind project in development, the Saint Brieuc offshore wind farm being pursued by Iberdrola and Eole-RES.