First step for French monster project -- English channel application

An ambitious offshore wind project totalling 702 MW off the coast of northern France started its long haul through the permitting process last month. Known as Deux Côtes, the project is located in the English Channel 14 kilometres off the coast of Picardy and Haute-Normandie. It is being developed by La Compagnie du Vent, one of France's leading developers and owner-operators of wind power, now 50% owned by Spain's Acciona.

With project costs estimated at around EUR 1.4 billion, La Compagnie du Vent is considering bringing in a partner to share the investment burden. The first administrative step was to apply to the local maritime services for authority to occupy the area. If all goes well, the company will apply for siting permission late 2007 and start building in 2010.

La Compagnie du Vent estimates the project will create over 2000 jobs during the three-year construction period and a further 250 for operation and maintenance. It is also considering manufacturing turbines locally.

The company has been holding extensive talks with local residents, elected officials and fishermen. It proposes building artificial reefs to replace the area lost to fishing and increase fish populations, and also proposes providing biodiesel to help reduce fishermen's fuel costs. If built, the plant will generate nearly EUR 8.5 million a year in tax revenue, half of which goes to supporting fishing and maritime tourism and the rest to the local authorities.

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