France finally joins the offshore club

The fact that France's first operating offshore wind turbine is a floater perhaps tells us more about the lack of progress in the country's fixed-bottom foundation sector than the speed of development in floating platforms.

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However, with the commissioning of Ideol’s Floatgen demonstrator, France can now legitimately claim to have joined the other 16 countries around the world generating offshore wind power, albeit with only 2MW of capacity installed at a test site.

Poland looks a likely candidate for the next entrant. The government shut down onshore development in 2016, largely to protect its coal industry. But it still has targets for renewables generation and emission reduction that look impossible to meet without large-scale offshore wind.

The country has many of the most important elements in place for fast growth, not least a well-established supply chain in major components and an extensive port infrastructure.

Several sites have been through environmental impact assessments, and have grid connection agreements. Poland’s transmission system operator believes that 4GW could be operating in the Polish Baltic Sea by 2027.

That sounds encouraging, but then we thought the same of France in 2012 when it awarded 2GW of offshore capacity, followed by another 1GW two years later. Construction work has yet to start on any of the six projects, and one wonders if it ever will.

The tariffs awarded (close to €200/MWh) were pretty generous even by 2012-2014 standards. Against the bids of around €60/MWh that have secured contracts in other European countries recently, they look prohibitively high.

Instead, France seems to be turning its focus towards floating projects. Delegates at the recent FOWT event were encouraged by the government's announcement that it plans to launch the first commercial tender for floating technology in 2019, with annual tenders of up to 2GW to follow.

Floating offshore has a number of acute supply chain challenges to resolve before it can be taken to utility scale. The dearth of high-voltage dynamic cabling is probably top of the list. But following soon after the commissioning of Statoil’s Hywind Scotland, Ideol is taking commercial floating wind closer to reality.

Pause for thought

Windpower Monthly is taking a summer break this year for the print edition. The next issue will be published in August. We will, of course, be keeping you fully up to date with all developments in the global wind industry on and

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