The chances of France hitting its original 2020 offshore wind target of 6GW have dwindled to zero. Only four projects, amounting to 1.93GW, have been granted tenders, and they are all now going through the country's complex permitting procedures. If they come through this without delays or major revisions, by no means a given, construction will start in 2015. They should be providing the first French offshore wind-generated electricity by 2018, but are not timetabled to be fully commissioned until April 2020.
In July 2011, the French government launched a competitive tender for five offshore sites with a total capacity of 3GW, and announced the result in April 2012. The clear winner was a consortium headed by EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN), specifying Alstom's new 6MW Haliade turbine, which was awarded the tender for three 450-498MW sites: Courseulles-sur Mer off lower Normandy, Fecamp off upper Normandy, and Saint Nazaire on the Atlantic Coast.
Ailes Marines, a joint venture between Iberdrola and Eole-RES, which opted for Areva's 5MW turbine, won the tender for the 500MW Saint-Brieuc project off the coast of Brittany. The fifth site, Le Treport off upper Normandy with a potential capacity of 750MW, was withdrawn from the tendering process after receiving only one bid.
Le Treport was retendered with a reduced capacity of 500MW in the second round in January 2013, as well as a similar-sized project near the island of Nourmoutier in the Atlantic. Deadline for bids is 29 November, with the results due to be announced in March 2014.
The timetable for commissioning these two projects calls for the winning developers to commission 40% of capacity within 7.25 years of them being awarded, and achieve full operation two years later. That would leave France still short of 3GW of offshore wind - less than half its 2020 target - in September 2023.
The relaxed timetabling reflects the concern that the first four projects have been scheduled to go online before work will be completed on the cable connections linking them to the onshore network. Studies by French transmission system operator RTE indicate that grid connections will not be in place until 2019 at the earliest.
The major beneficiary of France's offshore plans to date is turbine maker Alstom, which is now gearing up the manufacturing and assembly facilities required to start series production of its 6MW Haliade turbine. The company started constructing two new factories in the harbour zone of Saint-Nazaire in January 2013, which it expects to be commissioned some time in 2014. They will be entirely devoted to assembling nacelles and manufacturing generators, while other new plants in Cherbourg will be responsible for the production of blades and towers. Alstom claims its new works will create about 1,000 direct jobs and another 4,000 indirect jobs for suppliers and sub-contractors, and that turbine production in serious numbers will start from 2016.
Current offshore capacity: Zero
NREAP 2020 aim: 6GW
Realistic forecast: Up to 2GW by 2020