Installed capacity in France and its overseas territories tipped over 2000 MW last month to reach 2047 MW, an increase of 500 MW in the last six months. The spurt is in line with industry predictions as developers rush to get as many projects approved under the old permitting system, which ends on July 13. From now on only plant built within wind power development zones (ZDEs) will be eligible for France's fixed purchase price. France still needs to achieve a higher rate of development if it is to meet its objective of 18,000 MW installed capacity by 2015, says the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER). SER believes the target is possible. Over 25,000 MW is under development in France, according to its estimates. The big question now is whether the introduction of ZDEs will speed up the permitting process, as intended, or create another obstacle. At present it takes around four years to complete a project in France. Political will is also a crucial factor, particularly with regard to resolving such thorny issues as alleged wind turbine interference of radar readings (Windpower Monthly, January 2007). With this in mind, the industry welcomed the establishment by the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, of a Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, combining energy, environment and transport under one super ministry. It will be headed by Jean-Louis Borloo, the prime minister's second-in-command. "Borloo has a track record in renewables and has been involved with wind energy since the beginning," says Jean-Michel Germa of the French Wind Energy Association. His optimism is shared by SER's André Antolini, who believes the new minister is "committed to environmental issues in general and particularly renewables." Time will tell if Borloo's actions live up to the promise.
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