The companies are all component suppliers and engineering firms from the North of France. They have joined forces to propose a scheme for French built wind turbines derived from the Belgian-Dutch WindMaster designs. At the end of the year, these firms are to supply the 2.7 MW wind plant to be built at Dunkirk by the regional council for FRF 23 million. The French share of the content of the plant will be over 70%.
Meantime, several wind research programmes have been funded by the Nord-Pas de Calais regional council. These are aimed at encouraging preventative maintenance, evolving a low speed wind turbine design, and development of cyclone-proof rotors.
"The French authorities are discovering that wind creates jobs," explains Roger Guery, general manager of CMD Transmissions, a gearbox maker based in Cambrai in the north of France and a member of AFINROLE. "We are not very aware of wind in our country, so some colleagues were worried. All this is not a dream. All of us in this group are used to international competition on our segment of each market and we can be priced competitively. Creating a non-competitive industry would be senseless," says Guery. He hopes to be able to glean 10-15% of his business from wind in the future.
CMD Transmissions is a subsidiary of GIAT, the French national tank, ordnance and gun supplier. CMD's design team is working on a 750 kW gearbox and hopes to fine tune its product for use on wind turbines. "Our gearboxes for Dunkirk were made on the safe side," Guery explains.
Other members of AFINROLE are Atout Vent (ATV), maker of carbon fibre blades for wind turbines. Leroy Somer, French leader in electric motors, which will supply the generator; Espace Eolien Developpement (EED), an engineering firm specialised in wind energy; and Norelec, subsidiary of giant French contractor Eifage, the fourth largest electrical construction firm in France, with links to the Maghreb and the Caribbean, and its sights set on South America and China.
"One megawatt of wind power brings about 0.2 jobs for operation and maintenance and five times more if the wind turbine is built here, explains Jean-Michel Grave of NORELEC, who hopes to bring his experience in construction management overseas.
The group is optimistic and hopes Electricité de France, the national utility, will help with exports and perhaps even construction in France. Members of the group are involved in the current discussions for power purchase rates for wind; they hope to see an increase on the current FRF 0.029/kWh very soon.
Also present at the Pollutec exhibition were several companies which are already suppliers to the wind turbine industry -- some of them as major suppliers, too. For example, brake maker SIME Industrie of Roissy, near Paris, supplies more brakes to the for wind turbines than any other firm. "We have supplied disk brakes for wind since 1983 and it still represents 20% of our business, says Patrick Devoulon of SIME. "Our test centre near Nevers is unique and can withstand high energy tests."
Rollix, based near Nantes, is another French firm with a toehold in the wind business. Sales of Rollix bearings for use in wind turbines makes up about 20% of the company's FRF 170 million turnover, mostly in exports. Wind firms such as Tacke and Enercon in Germany and WindMaster all buy from Rollix. A third company in wind, Petitjean of Troyes, sells lightning conductors and supplies Britain's Wind Energy Group and Riva Calzoni in Italy. It intends to add a transportable pole to its series for shipping in standard containers.