‘Late to the party’ France is set to leapfrog other European offshore wind nations as it hits 7.4GW in operation by 2030, said analysts at Rystad Energy.

That would make France – whose plans include a major push into floating wind – Europe’s number-four offshore wind market, Rystad said.

The Norwegian analyst group said French offshore wind is now moving ahead at full steam despite any potential cost and supply chain issues resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 7.4GW estimate would surpass the 2030 targets for other well-established European offshore wind countries such as Belgium and Denmark, which have 4GW and 5.3GW goals respectively.

It would place France behind only the UK, which is aiming to have 40GW of offshore wind capacity, Germany (15GW-20GW), and the Netherlands (11.5GW).

Rystad said France is expected to retain its position well into the 2030s with an additional 5GW of capacity lined up for planned tender rounds between 2024 to 2028.

Regulatory delays mean France’s first 1GW of fixed-bottom offshore wind farms are only now gearing up for construction, despite being awarded in tenders held as long ago as 2012.

“Although France has been quite late to the party compared to several of its western European counterparties, recent developments suggest the country is now picking up the pace. France’s target for operational capacity is 2.4GW in 2023, a target expected to be reached through the completion of already awarded projects,” said Alexander Fløtre, Rystad’s vice president and product manager of offshore wind.

Tendering plans

The first part of the plan will be kicked off this year with a tender for 1GW of bottom-fixed capacity in the French parts of the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, covering a development area called Manche Est Mer du Nord.

In 2021 to 2022 another 0.5GW to 1GW of bottom-fixed capacity will be put up for tender off southwest France, in an area named Sud-Atlantique. A part of this southern Atlantic tender may cover the already proposed 0.5GW to 1GW offshore wind project outside Île d’Oléron, an island in the Poitou-Charentes region.

The French government also plans to organise three separate floating wind tenders in 2021-2022, each with a capacity of 250 MW. The first, in 2021, will be in the southern waters off Brittany (Bretagne Sud), while the other two in 2022 are planned for areas in the Mediterranean.

Another 1GW of bottom-fixed offshore wind will be tendered in 2023, at a location which has yet-to-be-determined.

From 2024 to 2028 the French government plans to award 1GW of capacity per year, which can be bottom-fixed, floating, or a mix of both. The amount of floating capacity to be awarded will depend on its cost competitiveness compared to the more established bottom-fixed alternative.

The French wind association FEE said last month that while the overall offshore wind target doesn’t live up to France’s massive potential, that the government’s plan puts the country in a global leadership position when it comes to the development of floating wind.