December 2, 2016

France Gears Up for Floating Wind

The emergence of floating wind power in France took another step forward earlier this month when the government announced two winners to a call for floating wind pilot plants.

Two pre-commercial pilot projects, each of 24 MW, will be built out under terms of the tender in independent locations.

One project — located in the Leucate zone of the Mediterranean — will be developed by utilities Engie and EDP Renewables, in concert with French bank Caisse de Dépôts et Consignations, Eiffage, Principle Power and GE. Four 150-6MW turbines from GE Haliade are to be installed.

A second project — within the Faraman area off the coast of Brittany — is to be developed by France-based power company EDF EN together with SBM Offshore and IFP Energies Nouvelles. Three Siemens 8 MW turbines will be featured there.

Industry players in France have broadly welcomed the announcement. The projects, alongside two other floating wind pilot projects announced in July, are expected to provide a key platform to demonstrate capabilities of floating wind and trial varying floating platform configurations. All four projects are of comparable capacity.

Jean Mathieu Kolb, the project director for ENGIE, told Renewable Energy World: “This project intends to quickly put floating wind farms on the map as a competitive energy source and part of the overall energy mix for France.”

He continued: “The objective is for this pre-commercial phase to provide key experience to help ensure the success of future commercial developments, not only for the industrial field but also for the many associated stakeholders.”

Kolb described the project as “a decisive phase that anticipates the floating turbine sector’s industrialization in France and abroad.”

Floating wind technology has been adopted by France as holding great potential for offshore development in light of the depths of waters around the nation. Engie has stated: “Floating wind turbines are an up-and-coming technology that can be installed in deeper, very windy water far from the shore. France’s Mediterranean coast is particularly well-suited to the development of this renewable offshore energy source and a perfect test platform for future international markets”

Engie plans to have the turbines commissioned in 2020.

Matthieu Monnier, Industry and Offshore Wind Advisor at the national wind association, France Wind Energy(FEE), told Renewable Energy World: “FEE congratulates the two new laureates and is happy that the state brings such strong support to the development of floating offshore wind energy in France. It means that the wind industry will be able to test and validate economical and technical hypothesis during the pre-commercial pilot phase; the fact that we have four awarded projects with four different technologies will show, in the future, which technologies will reach maturity and, consequently, which ones reach the commercial and industrial phase.

Reflecting on the fact that France has not yet installed any offshore turbines, Monnier said: “If the French offshore wind energy sector is late compared to other markets, the opportunity to lead this new market is real, and we will do it in a near future.”

Monnier added, “But commercial tenders are necessary for this, that’s why we are delighted that French Minister of Energy Ségolène Royal announced the launch of the commercial phase through a zoning process (that will start by the end of 2016), before the concrete launch of commercial tenders.”

Contrasting with this enthusiasm, however, were Monnier’s feelings towards aspects of the recently announced renewable energy targets for 2023 from the French government.

In particular, targets for offshore and floating offshore wind are not as ambitious as the wind industry should have liked. Monnier said: “The [floating offshore wind] objective is shared with other marine renewable energies and does not give a clear visibility [for floating wind target capacity].”

He added that FEE believes that floating offshore wind is the most competitive energy and that it should have the higher share of the 2 GW by 2023.

“If France wants to lead this market, we need commercial tenders with significant volumes,” he said.

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