Designing the offshore tender

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On the eve of France's first major tender for offshore capacity, national energy regulator Commission de Régulation de l'Énergie (CRE) has published the results of a consultation with potential bidders -- a report that developers hope will be taken into consideration in finalising the terms for this month's expected 500 MW request for proposals.

The coastlines of France are a definite "exception" to countries with established offshore wind stations, the survey respondents say. First, French waters are deep and without the shallow sand banks close to shore that offshore wind has so far been built on. There are tricky geological and hydrodynamic conditions, too, and France lacks legal frameworks for seabed use as and a way of resolving conflicts, particularly with the fishing industry, the interest group most likely viewed to pose problems.

Some of these obstacles could be surmounted if there is enough financial elastic in the call for tenders, while other problems must be tackled locally by individual projects, say bidders.

Offshore wind power developers hope the French government will offer a fixed price for electricity generated over a period of 15-20 years, in line with the onshore wind tariff. Generally, they agree that 2200 kWh/kW is a reasonable minimum level of production to expect -- a base figure not far off the stipulation for the current variable tariff for land-based plant more than five years old (Windpower Monthly, March 2003).

In terms of the most likely cause of delays or failure of projects, developers are mainly concerned about obtaining site permits. Next, they worry about uncertainties over grid connection, purchase price stability and difficulties obtaining insurance.

The majority of wind farm developers "considered that the involvement in the planning process of all local interest groups was the key to conflict resolution." It was also suggested that the state, rather than developers, should nominate suitable zones for wind farms. And in order to win local acceptance, two developers propose that models should be introduced inviting the general public to buy shares in offshore plant.

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