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French wind lobbying for 2GW floating tender ‘early next year’

France’s wind power association, FEE, is lobbying its country’s government to hold a 2GW tender targeting commercial-scale floating projects early next year as a launch-pad to switching on as much as 6GW by 2030, its chief executive tells Recharge.

Pauline Le Bertre, speaking on the sidelines at the Floating Offshore Wind Turbine conference, said “strong political support [was now] imperative” if the burgeoning sector was to expanded to its “full potential” in the decades ahead.

“The French industry is ready and expects the next steps to come with a 2GW tender, launching at the beginning of 2018 at the latest, with awards in 2019 and first commissioning in 2024,” she said. “There is a common objective, determination and commitment of the floating wind industry to ensure the success of the [four 25MW] pre-commercial farms [currently in development] as it will be a clear signal to the market.”

“But we need strong political support, a clear and precise calendar and [order book] volumes as that will be fundamental in terms of visibility [for investors]. Having a competitive LCoE [levellised cost of energy] by 2030 remains the main challenge ahead for the sector.”

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The 6GW installation target, she noted, would be evenly split between sites in the French Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

The flagship of the French floating fleet, a 2MW prototype currently being built by Ideol in Saint-Nazaire for the European Union (EU) FloatGen project, is on track to be deployed this autumn in the Atlantic. Installation will mark the first wind power generation off France, which so far has only deployed a prototype offshore metmast at its as-yet-undeveloped Fécamp wind farm in the English Channel.

FEE’s ambitious target would be a sizeable step up on the build-out goals set out by Paris last October, which aspire to have a floating fleet of 200MW-2GW switched on by 2023, hinging on four 25MW demonstration projects now in early development in the engineering departments of Engie/EDPR, Quadran, Eolfi/CGN and EDF.

But Philippe Veyan, director of projects at EDF, which is developing the Provence Grand Large (PGL) wind farm in the Faraman area off Marseille with SBM and IFP using Siemens 8MW SWT-8.0-154 turbines, cautioned against a high risk “full-speed-ahead” approach to commercialisation of floating wind off France.

“The key issue now remains the launch of our pilot farms,” he said. “We can’t be precipitous; we have to go step by step. We are pushing hard but we are not alone out in the marine environment and there are many concerns that have to be properly addressed.

“You cannot deploy gigawatts [of floating wind power] at any price. It has to done in an intelligent way. These are very complex projects. We have push hard for 2018 [when construction of the four pilot projects is slated to be underway] while keeping an eye on the long-term potential.”

Giles Dickson, chief executive of industry body WindEurope, which recently set up a floating wind taskforce to accelerate development of the nascent sector, nonetheless sees the future for the fast-emerging technology being “particularly bright” for France and Europe as a whole, which he underlines has a capacity potential of 4,000GW.

“Floating wind is coming of age. Commercialisation is just around the corner – we are beyond R&D,” he said. “It won’t be long before we have a first 100MW floating wind farm operation. [The technology] has a great value proposition.”

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Dickson adds that the European offshore wind industry “needs at least 4GW a year to maintain investments that will lead to full competitiveness as well as help the EU meet its 2030 [emissions] commitments”.

“Floating [wind power], not least in France, where FEE has served as a leader in the field, has a key role to play in securing this future.”

The first 100MW of floating offshore wind arrays off France will be financed one-third through a direct government subsidy capped at €150m ($163.7m) for all projects combined, coming from a support programme for future investments, two-thirds of which will be funded by government loans.

Bidders will have to propose a financing plan that includes a tariff of €150-275 ($165-302) per MWh. Each project is due to have a two-year operational lifetime that can be extended to 15-20 years if it is deemed a success.

France currently has its sights set on having 3GW of conventional fixed-bottom offshore wind, as well as 26GW onshore and more than more than 20GW of solar, by 2023.

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