France

France

A year of delay and uncertainty -- Offshore France

It was a year of disappointment for offshore wind in France. After much delay and uncertainty, the government ended up choosing just one project from 11 bids submitted in response to a call for 500 MW of offshore wind. The bids amounted to an estimated 1000 MW. The single 105 MW project selected in September was proposed by Germany's Enertrag and Prokon Nord. The rest were said to be too expensive and lacking local support.

The French offshore wind potential is one of the best in Europe, with estimates of an annual generation of 90 TWh. In a nation where the countryside is almost sacred and planning procedures complex, going offshore is seen as a relatively painless way of building large scale wind plant. With no more than 770 MW of wind power in France today, big scale development is essential if the country is to meet its EU targets. The one offshore project selected will alone boost the national total by 14%.

While unhappy at the outcome of the tender call, most industry observers were not surprised by the poor result, which they blame on the tender's flawed assessment criteria. The selection was made primarily on the basis of price, with less weight placed on environmental impact, conflict of use and the sponsor's technical and financial strengths. The result, "Confirms that the criteria were inappropriate to new technologies, which are always costly to develop, and were not in tune with the government's aim to boost new energy investment," says Jean-Yves Grandidier of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE).

Even industry minister François Loos, who announced the tender result, seems dissatisfied, saying he will launch another call for bids, placing more emphasis on building public awareness and on consultation, though adding that he hopes the price offered will be as low as in the just completed tender -- around EUR 100/MWh. André Antolini of the Renewable Energy Syndicate disagrees. "The government has to accept that offshore development is expensive," he says.

The Enertrag and Prokon Nord project site is located seven kilometres off the Normandy coast in water 23 metres deep. The initial proposal is for 21, 5 MW turbines from German company Multibrid, although no final decision has been made. Deadline for completion under the tender terms is November 2007. Because of all the administrative procedures, however, Philip Gouverneur, director of Enertrag France, says it will not start building until 2008 at the earliest. The project must obtain three principal authorisations -- title over the seabed, the right to use the maritime public domain and a siting permit -- in addition to numerous other permissions. It must also undergo an environmental impact study and a public enquiry. Given that this is a pilot project, everyone is feeling their way. "It's not easy, but we can't complain," says Gouverneur. "The authorities are being very supportive."

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