In the year to February 1, 2005, local authorities governing France's "departments" issued 325 siting permits for 1557 MW of wind power capacity while refusing 120 applications, representing 656 MW. The main grounds for permit refusals are landscape and environmental concerns. A further 566 applications for 3198 MW were outstanding as of February 1. In a previous government survey covering a two and a half year period from July 1, 2001, to February 1, 2004, permits were issued for just 852 MW while 475 MW of capacity was rejected.
The greatest activity is in the north of France -- notably north-east Lorraine and Picardy, which have seen a combined total of 516 MW approved for development since February 2001 (table). While the northern coastal region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Languedoc-Roussillon in the south also scored relatively high on the approval list, they took top honours when it came to permit refusals, both having a rejection rate of 59% for the four years up to February 2005.
The average time taken to process an application is eight months, significantly longer than the five months specified by law. Whether the outcome is for or against, 22% of planning decisions go to appeal, but 83% of these are rejected. The appeals are made on grounds of public safety, insufficiently thorough impact studies (especially concerning birds and noise levels), landscaping issues, threats to the national heritage and irregularities in the administrative procedures.
According to the government, it takes an average of two years to complete a project in France, a conclusion disputed by Gilles Vairel of Planète Eolienne, a group of local pro-wind associations. Only half the planned projects will be realised, he argues, and many of these will not come online for up to three years.