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European offshore: France learns as it progresses

The government is reviewing the latest tender and updating legal procedures, reports Jan Dodd.

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While France still has no turning offshore turbines, four projects totalling 2GW awarded in the first tender round in 2012 are progressing, with a third round expected this year.

Furthest advanced are the three projects - St-Nazaire (480MW), Courseulles-sur-Mer (450MW) and Fecamp (498MW) - belonging to Eolien Maritime France (EMF), a consortium of EDF Energies Nouvelles and Dong Energy. EMF applied for the necessary permits last October, with approvals expected in mid-2015, and will make the final investment decisions by year end. EMF launched a tender for the foundations at Fecamp in November and will soon do the same for Courseulles and St-Nazaire. It will also tender this year for the offshore substations, cables and turbine installation for all three projects.

The fourth project, St-Brieuc (500MW), owned by Iberdrola and Eole-RES, is being redesigned for Areva's 8MW turbine rather than the 5MW unit originally envisaged. Once government approval for the upgrade is confirmed, the consortium will have until October to start the permitting process.

The GDF Suez-led consortium awarded 500MW at Le Treport and 500MW at Noirmouter in the second tender round in 2014 is now carrying out feasibility studies. The projects will be subject to a public debate this year.

Energy minister Segolene Royal has announced a third tender call to be held this year, with locations and capacity yet to be decided. The government is reviewing the tender process in order to encourage competition and drive down costs, and is also simplifying the regulatory process for offshore wind. Sometime this year or early next, the government should issue decrees allowing regional authorities to grant a single permit covering the facility, inter-array cables and offshore substations, with another permit for grid connection.

Royal is also expected to issue another decree to speed up deployment this year by establishing a single administrative court to handle legal cases concerning offshore wind projects. Under the present system, appeals can still be launched after the project has come into operation, which makes it impossible for developers to secure financing.

As for turbines, Alstom's new factory at St-Nazaire will come into full production this year, manufacturing the nacelles and generators for its 6MW Haliade machine. By the end of 2015 the company should also start building a blade factory, in partnership with LM Wind, and a tower factory at Cherbourg. Areva and partners expect to apply this year for permits for an industrial cluster at Le Havre, comprising manufacturing facilities for blades, nacelles, bearings, gearboxes and generators for the new 8MW Areva-Gamesa turbine.

France is pushing ahead with floating foundation research, and the government will launch a call for expressions of interest in June to build a pilot project.

A prototype of Ideol's Floatgen platform, equipped with a 2MW Gamesa turbine, should be installed at the Croisic test site this summer.

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