France has made a significant commitment to offshore windfarms but still hasn’t built any, however that situation is changing as floating offshore wind projects come to the fore
As of today, there are no offshore wind turbines in operation off France’s coast. In an ironic twist, the first offshore wind turbine to be connected in France will be a floating offshore turbine rather than a bottom-fixed unit. This unit is due to be commissioned in the next few months.
It has been nearly four years since France announced the winners of its second commercial-scale offshore wind tender and nearly six years since announcing the winners of its first tender.
Combined, the tenders awarded contracts for 2.9 GW of capacity, but fast forward to today, and only the projects in the first 1.9 GW tender have secured all the necessary permits, and not a single project from these first two tenders has reached financial close.
As Tom Harries, an offshore wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) explained, the country’s slow and cumbersome development process is delaying projects. Meanwhile, France’s floating offshore wind sector is progressing at pace, and BNEF expects four 24 MW floating offshore wind projects – providing a total of 96 MW – to come online in 2020/21.
In contrast, BNEF does not expect to see any conventional projects commissioned before 2021.
“The French Government has acknowledged the slow development process, and under the leadership of president Emmanuel Macron, it plans to cut development times to less than seven years from more than 10 currently,” Mr Harries explained.
“In recent years, the government has also streamlined the appeal process for offshore wind projects and cut the length of court cases. Previously, appeals against issued environmental and building permits by stakeholders such as the fishing industry, tourist bodies and conservationists have added years to a project’s development.”
Despite the snail-pace development of offshore wind in France, in November 2017, the Ministry of Ecology announced plans to unveil a new, ambitious target. “To date, not much is known about the specific capacity target,” said Mr Harries, “but we expect more information to be released when the multiyear energy plan is unveiled at the end of 2018.” BNEF estimates a 500 MW a year installation rate for French offshore wind through the 2020s.
In mid-January, a 10-point plan was set out by the French Government with the aim of doubling wind power capacity by 2023. The aim of the plan is to simplify administrative procedures and accelerate the development of wind power projects.
Reports suggest that the proposed reforms will halve the average time it takes for projects to be completed and connected to the grid. “Currently, it takes seven to nine years to develop offshore wind projects,” said French junior ecology minister Sebastien Lecornu.
Despite the slow pace of projects in France, there have recently been a number of important developments in the market there.
Early in 2018, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has confirmed that the French state has authorised the use of a new turbine for the 500 MW Saint-Brieuc offshore wind project.
Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy will supply its new 8 MW offshore wind turbine, the SG 8.0-167 DD, to projects off the Bretagne coast. The turbine will replace Adwen’s AD 8-180 model after Siemens Gamesa decided to focus on its offshore direct drive platform.
Including the 500 MW Dieppe/Le Tréport, 500 MW Yeu/Noirmoutier and 24 MW Provence Grand large projects, Siemens Gamesa will be the supplier for nearly 1,524 GW of projects in France, accounting for a total of 189 Siemens Gamesa direct drive turbines to be installed.
The turbine has a rotor diameter of 167 m with B82 blades of nearly 82 m in length, allowing an 18% larger swept area and up to 20% higher annual energy production than its predecessor, the SWT-7.0-154.
Siemens Gamesa chief executive Andreas Nauen said “This switch of technology for the Saint-Brieuc project is positive news for the project as well as for the whole industry.” He said selection of the turbine would provide a “reliable and competitive solution” whilst contributing to regional economic and industrial development.
The first floating offshore wind turbine to be installed in French waters, Floatgen, reached a key milestone at the end of 2017 and is due to enter into operation shortly. Mr Lecornu inaugurated the floating offshore wind turbine in Saint-Nazaire on 13 October 2017.
Floatgen is one of a growing number of demonstration projects for floating offshore wind. Its main objectives are to prove the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of floating foundations in deep water.
Supported by the European Union through the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and by ADEME (the Environment and Energy Management Agency), the project is being undertaken by Ideol (which is co-ordinating the project and is responsible for design and engineering of the mooring system and foundations), École Centrale de Nantes (ECN, ocean engineering and test site), Bouygues, University of Stuttgart, Germany (coupled loads simulations and evaluation of measurement), RSK Group, UK (analysis of the environmental impact of the floating system), Zabala (Spain, project management) and Fraunhofer-Iwes, Germany (benchmarking analysis between Floatgen and other comparable solutions).
The Floatgen floating offshore wind turbine is due to be installed for a period of two years 20 km off Le Croisic. Energy produced by the 2 MW turbines will be injected into the French electrical network. The floating foundation for the turbine was developed by Ideol using its concrete damping pool-type unit.
In July 2017, Bourbon installed the moorings for Floatgen on behalf of ECN at the SEM-REV experimental test site off Le Croisic. The innovative mooring system, which uses synthetic mooring lines, was also designed and developed by Ideol.
2017 also saw French energy engineering company Dietswell awarded €2.4M (US$2.9M) by ADEME to continue development of its floating offshore wind foundation.
Well known in the offshore oil and gas industry, Dietswell has developed a semi-submersible floater for offshore wind energy. It earlier received €0.5M in funding from Bpifrance.
Dietswell chief executive Jean-Claude Bourdon said the funding was “recognition by the French Government through ADEME of our Eolfloat project”.
Eolfloat makes use of the Trussfloat semi-submersible, which was tested successfully in March at the Océanide basin at La Seyne-sur-Mer. The Trussfloat has a 50 m x 50 m x 50 m triangular base and is designed for use with 6–8 MW turbines. The company anticipates that a larger floating foundation based on the Trussfloat could use wind turbines of up to 13 MW.
The Trussfloat is an all-steel unit that the company says is “based on a concept operationally proven for 50 years in the petroleum industry [and] could be launched at the end of 2018 in a commercial version”.