Yet with total of installed capacity of 16.6GW, and just one 2MW pilot project offshore, the country lags behind several of its European neighbours.
When industry leaders gathered in Paris at French renewable energy trade body SER’s annual conference in February, they were clear about the one persistent hurdle hampering wind development: regulation.
"Regulation is the problem. France is one of the most difficult countries: it’s a great country but we need the support of regulators," Alfonso Faubel, CEO of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s onshore division told delegates.
"Governments are not there yet, we need to change our mindset," echoed Morten Baek, from Denmark’s climate ministry.
On paper, wind in France is promised a bright future. The country’s new draft energy plan, known as PPE, aims to boost onshore capacity to 34.7GW and offshore to 6.2GW by 2028 — up 40% from the plan’s previous drafts.
Last year, France was one of four countries in Europe to install more than 1GW of onshore wind, and the only one to include floating developments in its energy plan, according to WindEurope.
But despite apparent support for the industry, the government keeps sending mixed signals.
"Let’s be honest. Wind will only really take off if everyone is behind it," France’s energy transition minister, Elisabeth Borne, told the conference, where she called for the need to urgently increase the share of renewables in the country’s electricity mix.
Only a few days later, she told the French senate that the "anarchical development" of onshore wind in France was a major problem.
In January, the president, Emmanuel Macron, had said he did not believe in the massive deployment of onshore wind.
"There is a real disconnect between the country’s ambitions and what actually happens on the ground in France," Paul de la Guérivière, CEO of Idéol, which supplies floating platforms for offshore, told Windpower Monthly.
"The government has said that floating is a priority. But the reality isn’t in line with this."
Historically, France’s reliance on nuclear power, dating back to a post-war drive for energy security, has hampered the development of renewable energy.
Today, the main hindrances are red tape and legal hurdles. It can take up to eight years for a wind farm to get off the ground, twice the European average.
The legal framework has been simplified to some extent: public consultations now take place before a project has been tendered in an attempt to reduce the number of appeals.
The government also hopes the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change will bring forth some solutions.
The group, set up in October and made up of 150 French citizens picked at random, has been tasked with delivering concrete proposals by April.
On their part, France’s wind bodies have a number of recommendations of their own.
The SER advocates simplifying the legal framework by allowing claims to go directly to France’s highest administrative jurisdiction (Conseil d’Etat) and speeding up the identification of wind project locations, especially offshore."The government must continue to simplify the procedures," SER president Jean-Louis Bal said at the conference.