GDF/Areva 'French offshore nod'

France’s energy regulator has recommended a consortium led by GDF-Suez and using Areva 8MW wind turbines gets the nod for 1GW of offshore wind capacity up for grabs in the latest national tender, according to press reports there.

The CRE has told the French government the GDF group – which also includes Portugal’s EDPR and Neon Marine – should be favoured in the contest, said Les Echoes and Le Figaro – which did not cite sources but are both respected commentators on French policy and business issues.

Developers were invited last year to bid for two 500MW zones – the first off the coast of Le Tréport, in the northwestern Haute-Normandie region, and the second between the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier, south of Brittany.

The GDF group is competing with a rival consortium led by EDF and with Alstom as its turbine partner.

The CRE’s recommendation is just that, and the government is not obliged to follow it.

In 2012 the energy ministry strayed from the CRE’s proposal that EDF’s bid should sweep the board in the country’s first 2GW offshore wind tender, instead awarding a single zone to Spain’s Iberdrola and Areva. That still left EDF as the big winner, while GDF got nothing at all in that round.

This time, the Areva 8MW turbine would come into play as an alternative to Alstom’s 6MW Haliade machine.

The turbine 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.

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.

Since bidding for the capacity, Areva has announced plans to form an offshore wind joint venture with Spain's Gamesa.

It is not clear when the government will announce its final decision.