Bidders worry over tough deadline -- French offshore tender

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Eleven bids for an estimated 1000 MW have been submitted in response to the French government's call for tenders for 500 MW of offshore wind farms. Scant details of the response were released last month by the French electricity regulator, the Commission de Régulation de l'Électricité (CRE), in the wake of criticism from industry members as to the secretive manner in which it has handled the bidding process (Windpower Monthly, September 2004).

Bidders are proposing six projects along the Atlantic coast, four in the English Channel and the North Sea, and one in the Mediterranean. While some industry observers had expected about this level of interest from bidders, André Antolini of the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) says it is a poor response and "reflects the lack of confidence among operators in the tender framework." CRE has declined to release any further bid details.

French wind project developer La Compagnie du Vent says it has proposed a 102 MW project in the Mediterranean Sea together with Shell WindEnergy, the American wind power subsidiary of the Shell oil group. The proposed site is off Cap d'Agde in the Languedoc-Roussillon department.

In the English Channel and North Sea sector, oil and gas giants Total and Shell WindEnergy have bid for 90 MW on the Dyck sandbank, ten kilometres off Dunkirk. Enertrag France and German Prokon Nord made a joint proposal for a 100 MW wind farm; and EOLE-RES, the French arm of Britain's Renewable Energy Systems, put in a bid for just under 100 MW.

On the Atlantic seaboard, Recherches et Développements Éoliens (RDE) submitted two bids off the Vendée coast in a consortium including its Spanish parent company Agrupacion Eolica. A consortium including Germany's Umweltkontor is also in the bidding. French power company EDF's subsidiary, EDF Énergies Nouvelles (formerly Siif Énergies) is involved in three bids, two in the Atlantic and one in the Channel, in association with other, unidentified operators.

Timeline concerns

French industry minister Patrick Devedjian is scheduled to announce the winners by February 2005. Under the terms of the tender, selected projects must be completed by January 2007 or face the possibility of financial penalties. There are already serious concerns as to whether this target can be met.

Jean-Marc Armitano of the French wind association criticises the "aggressive deadline." He says the government wants to show how determined it is to meet its target of 6000 MW of installed wind power in France by 2007 -- the current total stands at less than 300 MW. Armitano also complains about the lack of tolerance in the regulations, even if delays in obtaining building permits or grid connection causes a developer to miss the deadline.

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