The official launch of construction of two factories that will produce key components for Alstom's 6MW Haliade offshore wind turbine took place today, attended by French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and no less than four government ministers.
The two facilities in Saint Nazaire will produce nacelles and generators for about 240 Haliade turbines destined for three 500MW offshore wind farms to be built by an EDF-led consortium.
The two factories are scheduled to begin production in 2014 and will have a production capacity of 100 units per annum. Alstom is already working on early-series Haliade machines at a temporary workshop in Saint Nazaire. A further two factories are planned for Cherbourg, where Alstom will produce blades and towers for the Haliade. These will begin production in 2015.
Combined, Alstom's four Haliade plants will employ 800 staff.
The first offshore test of the 6MW offshore-specific turbine will begin soon, with the prototype due to depart Saint Nazaire for the port of Ostend within the next few days. The machine will be tested at the Belwind offshore wind farm.
Meanwhile, an onshore certification test in France has been progressing well. The company expects to begin shipping units for the Courseulles-sur-Mer, Fécamp and Saint-Nazaire wind farms in 2016.
For Alstom, the construction of these factories is a sign of both its intention to be a strong player in the competitive offshore wind turbine market and its industrial 'return' to France. While its headquarters are in France, the two Saint Nazaire facilities represent Alstom's first new industrial production plants located on French soil in thirty years.
Commenting, Alstom chief executive, Patrick Kron, said: "These new plants are the initial steps required to help create a French industrial cluster of excellence in the field of marine renewable energies".
Last week, it was announced that Alstom's power division will be a key contractor in the design and construction of the first phase of the Atlantic Wind Connection, an offshore electricity transmission project, designed to facilitate the development of wind farms of the US New Jersey coast.