The tendering process for wind farms over 12 MW on land will be in two stages of 500 MW each. For the first stage, bids must be registered by the end of October and projects completed by January 1, 2006. The second stage, described as "conditional," requires last bids to be in by autumn 2005 and wind farms to be functional by January 1, 2007. If a successful bidder fails to deliver, another short-listed company will be given the contract and the deadline extended to January 1, 2009. The price paid for the electricity produced from the program's wind plant will be fixed until the end of 2021 for the first phase and 2022 for the second.
Project developers are being asked to show that people living near the site of a wind farm have been consulted, that planning permission has been applied for and an impact study carried out. Bids will be judged by criteria in a strict order of importance: price, capacity of the wind farm (broadly, the bigger the better), annual production anticipated, and the degree of acceptance by the local community. Less emphasis will be given to the landscape-protection quality of the bid and, perhaps surprisingly, the "technical, economic and financial capacity of an applicant to build a wind farm on land".
The government expresses a wish that projects be spread out across France rather than concentrated in a few windy areas. Bidders have been advised that they will have to pay for the connection of their wind farms to the national grid.
The French wind power industry sees the call for tenders as a mixed blessing. It is certainly a big step on the way to France meeting its target of 6000 MW of installed wind power capacity by January 2007. At present the country's total is 260 MW, having crept up very little in the last two years. But developers are unhappy that France will now have a mixed pricing system for wind energy.
Wind farms smaller than 12 MW will continue to receive a feed-in tariff while larger projects are now being forced into a competitive bidding process, bringing the price down and possibly showing up the feed in tariff as excessive. Antoine Saglio of the Renewable Energy Syndicate is concerned that in its calls for tender the government "has put a huge emphasis on price at the expense of quality of projects." There were, he points out, other options, the most obvious being to simply raise the 12 MW limit for the fixed feed-in tariff which pays EUR 0.0838/kWh for the first five years of operation. Over the following ten years, the tariff varies according to the productivity of site from EUR 0.0305/kWh to EUR 0.0838/kWh. It is only available for the first 1500 MW installed in France.