GDF group's French industrial pledge

A European consortium bidding to build two giant offshore wind developments in the waters off the western coast of France by 2021 has underscored its ambition at a meeting of regional stakeholders.

The group, made up of GDF Suez, EDP Renewables, Neoen Marine and Areva, aims to create some 6,000 jobs and a "Made in France" industrial complex involving four regional ports as part of its plans to develop the 500MW Le Tréport project, off the coast of the Haute-Normandie area, and the 500MW Yeu and Noirmoutier wind farm off Pays-de-la-Loire in an "innovative, concerted and local environmentally friendly [way]."

"Supported by the local authorities, chambers of commerce, and industry, the consortium partners [aim] to build a local industrial ecosystem which will form the base of a robust French offshore wind sector," says the GDF-led consortium. "These projects also support the development of the regional ports."

Areva will supply the projects with new-model 8MW turbines, which will feature 88-metre-long blades powering a medium-speed geared drive-train and permanent magnet generator concept "extrapolated" from the technologies used on its 5MW M5000 series machines. 

With a rotor diameter approaching 190 metres, the Areva turbines – said to offer the potential of a 40% reduction in the number of present-day turbines needed for a wind farm of this size and with "more space" for fishing operations – would be the world's largest.

Areva plans to construct a four-factory complex at the port of Le Havre to manufacture the nacelles, blades, and other key equipment including bearings and generators, with the port of Saint-Nazaire serving as an assembly site for the turbines and their jackets.

Logistics, operations, and maintenance would be run out of Dieppe and Le Tréport, as well as on the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier.

GDF Suez estimates production from Tréport and Yeu-Noirmoutier would could provide electricity to 1.6 million people.

Earlier this year, the French government unveiled a second offshore wind tender, in line with the objective of having 6MW switched on by the end of the decade so as to meet its wider target of renewable energy covering 23% of domestic energy consumption.

EDF, Wpd, and Alstom have also formed tie-up to vie for the rights to second round acreage.