Planning change aids France installations

FRANCE: Developers in France installed over 1GW of capacity in 2014, reversing four years of continuous decline, in part thanks to a change in the French planning laws.

Wind capacity in France grew by more than 1GW in 2014
Wind capacity in France grew by more than 1GW in 2014

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Figures released by French wind association France Energie Eolienne (FEE) shows capacity increased by 1.042GW in 2014. This takes France's total over the 9GW installed threshold.

FEE's data also showed Vestas turbines contributed 382.57MW (37%) of the total installed capacity – more than any other manufacturer.

It is the first increase in capacity in France since 2009. Yearly capacity growth has declined in the preceding four years until 2013 when 630MW was installed – the country's lowest growth since 2005.

President of FEE, Frederic Lanoe said a "complex legislative framework" was to blame for the decreasing installation. But changes to the law in 2013 simplified this, drawing immediate results.

The new law scrapped wind power development zones (ZDEs) whereby turbines had to be located in specific areas to qualify for guaranteed power-purchase prices.

It also removed the five-turbine minimum threshold, which blocked a large number of projects in rural areas, particularly in western France.

Lanoe warned it was too early to celebrate, however, arguing the growth needs to be continually encouraged to reach the country's wind energy targets.

He said: "Do not rejoice too soon. This growth must definitely be amplified in the coming years if France wants to achieve its energy transition goals."

France is aiming to install 19GW onshore and 6GW offshore by 2020. The Minister of Ecology set a target of 40% renewable energy by 2030.

The figures echo those also produced in Denmark, Germany and the UK as all three countries posted new wind energy records in 2014. 

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