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GDF bid to use 8MW Areva turbine

A consortium made up of GDF Suez, EDP Renewables, Neoen Marine, and Areva has handed in its bid to the French government to build 1GW of offshore wind energy as early as 2021 in the waters off western France – using new 8MW turbines.

The group, which is vying with an EDF, wpd, Alstom tie-up for the rights to acreage being opened as part of France's second offshore tender, would develop 500MW in Le Tréport, in the Haute-Normandie area, and another 500MW in the vicinity of the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier, off Pays-de-la-Loire.

"The experience of each of the consortium members in the wind power industry is great and each has been pioneering in its own way," says GDF Suez chief executive Gérard Mestrallet. "We feel our bid is the best possible response to the demands of the second offshore tender based as it is around innovative solutions and driven by local content."

"Completion of these two wind power projects will be a major challenge for France. It requires a very ambitious industrial plan to make it a reality."

Areva will supply the project with new-model 8MW turbines, which would feature 90-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 chief executive Luc Oursel states: "This is an exhilarating project and will need all our industrial offshore wind power experience, as well that of our core competence in nuclear power and our culture of safety, commercial feasibility and engineering excellence to make it come good."

"This will be a new generation of turbine, but one based on the tried and tested technologies developed for our 5MW machines. [The development of this model] will also inject dynamism into our ongoing efforts in research and development in offshore wind turbine technology."

Discussions are "ongoing" with suppliers for the blades, gearbox and generator, Areva chief commercial officer Rémi Coulon tells Recharge

"The jump made by some turbine makers from 3MW machines to 8MW is huge. Even moving from 5MW to 8MW it would have been complete madness for us to use untried technologies."

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. 

Le Havre is also foreseen as the likeliest site a large-scale test bench on which to trial the 8MW unit's drive-train.

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.

Construction of the two wind farms is expected to create close to 6,000 jobs. The consortium says it aims to forge a "Made in France" offshore wind industry network with some 450 companies in Normandy, Picardy, and Vendée to supply the 3,600 component parts for the 8MW machine.

"The development solution we are proposing for these two wind farms will be 100% local content," notes Mestrallet.

Earlier this year, the French government unveiled a second 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.

The first tender, launched in 2011, totalled 2GW,with a further 500MW bolted on after the fact. French state-owned utility EDF and compatriot Alstom were the big winner, pocketing three development zones, while Spain's Iberdrola and Areva took a fourth.

Note: Update adds more details, quotes

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