Good price but limited volume -- Onshore tender result

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The outcome of the French government's 2004 tender for 500 MW of onshore wind power was announced by French industry minister François Loos last month. Seven wind projects with a combined capacity of 278.35 MW were selected from 14 bids representing around 480 MW (Windpower Monthly, April 2005). The winning projects are fairly evenly distributed throughout France: two in the north, two in the centre and three in the south. No less than five of them, with a combined capacity of 122.35 MW, were proposed by French wind energy specialist La Compagnie du Vent. EDF Energies Nouvelles was awarded a single 66 MW development, while the only foreign bid retained was a 90 MW installation co-sponsored by oil giant Total and Germany's Harpen, the renewables arm of utility RWE.

Important signal

The successful bids were selected on the criteria of price, environmental impact, project size and the sponsor's technical and financial competence. "We are a little disappointed the minister did not select more projects," says Marion Lettry of the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER). "But in the context of France, 278 MW is not bad. It sends an important signal from the government in support of wind power, she adds. The result is certainly an improvement on the offshore tender call which resulted in just one project being selected, a 105 MW installation proposed by Germany's Enertrag and Prokon Nord (Windpower Monthly, October 2005).

SER is more upbeat about the tariffs at which French utility EDF will contract to buy the electricity to December 31, 2021. The price averages out at EUR 75/MWh over the seven projects, well above the EUR 45/MWh on the main French electricity market and slightly above the EUR 69/MWh paid under the current fixed purchase price system averaged out over 15 years for a moderately windy site. The industry feared the assessment criteria were so strongly geared towards lowest price bids, with insufficient regard for technical and financial issues, that selected projects would be either impossible to finance or not sufficiently well designed to receive planning permission. This does not appear to be the case.

Loos says the projects should be completed by the end of 2006. Given the tight timeframe, however, SER considers early 2007 is more realistic since most projects still have to obtain siting permission, go to public inquiry and undergo an impact study. Assuming they pass these hurdles, Loos says the additional megawatts will enable France to achieve 2000 MW of installed wind power early in 2007.

While installed wind power capacity in mainland France stands at around 700 MW, there is some 200 MW under construction and the government says it has issued siting permits for 2000-3000 MW. If building continues at the current rate, the target does not seem so far-fetched.

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