Currently Laali is in the throes of considering bids for the first wind tender under Eole 2005, for 50 MW of capacity. He stresses, though, that this is far from EDF's first venture into renewables. The utility already operates 23,000 MW of hydropower plant and is therefore well ahead of other countries in the use of renewable energy, he claims. He also points out that 900 MW of France's generating capacity is supplied by 1500 MW of private plant. "So Electricité de France has for decades had a good understanding of the relationship with small independent producers," he says.
EDF regards the Ministry of Industry's initiative with Eole 2005 as a stimulus more than an obligation, according to Laali "This programme will allow us to deepen our knowledge of wind power. We realise that for this we need a showcase project in France," he says. "Export is the prime driving force for EDF. If the results of our wind development are positive, why not imagine a future with some of our national product coming from wind?"
EDF does not intend to manufacture turbines. "It is not our job to design a machine or to be involved too much in it. We burned our fingers in the past taking that route. In 1997 we will invest about FFR 10 million in wind research, both by generalist wind power engineers and by our experts in flow dynamics and electrical equipment."
Mapping of the resource, using innovate software, will also be a major initiative. "The MINERVE code was originally developed by EDF for pollution dispersion in the event of a nuclear accident or just for thermal station emissions. It allows the large scale calculation of potential using several measurement centres and further allows you to zoom to a precise zone," explains Laali. This could reduce the time it takes for wind measuring from one year to two months, he claims. Actual wind forecasting by the day or hour will not be necessary, Laali adds, until dispatchers have to deal with more than 500 MW of wind on the grid.
Offshore wind, says Laali, is of great interest, but there are fears of a public backlash against any threat to the coastal tourist industry. Furthermore, EDF is involved in large scale wind turbine development in a joint utility programme with several European utilities under the auspices of the European Commission's EURE programme.