With a factor 10 growth between 2005 and 2009, wind-powered
energy is a booming sector in France. In 2009 alone, building
permits for wind power projects representing an overall capacity of
4,000 megawatts ("MW") have been granted by the French
authorities. As one of the most competitive sources of renewable
energies, wind-powered energy should eventually account for one
quarter to one third of France's renewable energy capacity.
Indeed, the French government aims to increase the overall capacity
of the French wind power sector by another factor 10, reaching a
total of 20,000 MW by 2020.
The French administration plans on the development of larger
projects, both on- and offshore, in order to avoid the sprawl of
small isolated wind farms over its territory.
With such ambitious objectives, France nevertheless remains at
the back end of European countries in terms of offshore wind
projects. Indeed, among a total of 948 offshore wind turbines
located in Europe, not a single one stands in French waters, and
only one small-scale offshore project of 105 MW has been filed so
In order to catch up with the most dynamic countries in this
sector, the French government is about to launch tenders for an
overall capacity of 3,000 MW of offshore wind energy projects in
the next weeks, including around 600 wind turbines to be located
along France's Atlantic coasts. According to the French
Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea, this
tender should account for a total investment of € 10
billion, based on the actual cost of € 3.5
million/connected MW. Moreover, the government plans to keep
increasing France's offshore wind-powered energy capacity up to
a total of 6,000 MW by 2020, for an overall investment estimated
between € 15 billion and € 20 billion. Such
capacity should roughly equal that of six nuclear power plants.
This tender clearly represents a change in scale compared to the
wind power projects developed so far in France. Due to the
magnitude and complexity of the anticipated offshore projects, it
is expected that large industrial groups, including energy
companies, turbine manufacturers, and civil engineering companies,
will team up to participate in the tender.
As for solar energy and land-based wind-produced energy, the
government policy in favor of offshore wind energy is served by
regulated preferential purchase rates guaranteed over a 20-year
period. The current rates stand at € 130/megawatt-hour
("MWh") for the first 10 years and between € 30
and € 130/MWh for the following 10 years, depending on the
annual operation time of the production facilities. Some investors
have raised concerns that such unified rates are too low and
inappropriate for offshore projects in view of the variety of
offshore site conditions and the related planning and construction
It may be expected that the government will review its unified
rate policy for the tenders to come since, among other elements to
be submitted, the bidders will have to provide an anticipated
estimate of their electricity sales prices, which will possibly be
among the crucial criteria for selecting the successful tenderers.
The tender process itself is expected to be long, with the first
turbines being erected in 2015, in particular because it would
include a "risk removal" period, during which the
feasibility of the projects would have to be confirmed by the
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