The French government’s decision to double its target for offshore wind to 1 GW per year has reinvigorated the industry, and new zones for development are being identified
With costs falling significantly following the 600-MW Dunkirk offshore wind project tender, the government in France is expected to accord offshore wind an important role in its soon-to-be published Programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie (PPE – multiannual energy programme).
Early drafts of the plan that will outline the country’s main energy objectives and priority actions for the next 10 years, which were produced before the Dunkirk tender, were deeply disappointing, and included only a small volume for offshore wind energy in the next decade (between 4.7 GW and 5.2 GW) and small and irregular numbers of tenders. None were listed in 2021 and 2022, and from 2025 onwards, the plan made room for only 500 MW of capacity – offshore or floating, depending on prices and the production potential – per annum.
The positive effect of the Dunkirk auction cannot, therefore, be over-emphasised. As highlighted previously by OWJ, it was won by a consortium led by EDF Renewables in partnership with innogy and Enbridge, with a bid that was below €50/MWh (US$56/MWh).
The result of the tender immediately boosted the case for ambitious offshore wind volumes in France, and the government announced its intention shortly afterwards to tender 1 GW of offshore wind per year up to 2028. This would mean 6.5 GW of offshore wind installed by 2028 and 11.5 GW tendered: around 6% of French electricity consumption.
With a 1-GW/year commitment in place – possibly more once the PPE is published either late in 2019 or early in 2020 – work is underway to identify a site off the Normandy coast in advance of the first 1-GW tender, which will take place in 2020.
As France Energie Eolienne deputy director Matthieu Monnier explained, the site will be identified using a new kind of consultation process which, it is hoped, will avoid many of the legal challenges that plagued earlier rounds of offshore wind in France.
The new consultation process will help identify the first windfarm zone off Normandy and was due to get underway as of 15 November 2019.
Rather than the state identifying suitable zones for offshore wind development, the new process will involve the public and all of the bodies potentially involved first. Once a zone or zones have been identified using this process, only then will they be assessed by the state and a formal decision taken.
“The consultation should be complete by around May 2020,” Mr Monnier tells OWJ. “We ought therefore to see the government in a position to launch a tender process sometime after that.
“We therefore expect a 1-GW tender for Normandy to be awarded towards the end of 2021 or in early 2022. A smaller, commercial-scale tender for floating wind off Brittany – around 250 MW – should also be awarded before the 1-GW tender, towards the end of 2021.”
By conducting the consultation in this way, the government is working to ensure the French public has been consulted as much as possible ahead of the tenders in an attempt to pre-empt legal issues from arising later, like those that have affected earlier French projects.
“The consultation itself won’t identify a precise zone, and more than one zone might be identified,” Mr Monnier explains. “It is a large area that is under consideration, around 10,000 km2, so there is a lot of space that is potentially suitable.
“If more than one zone is identified in the public consultation, they could well be used in subsequent tenders, in subsequent years. There are at least three zones of particular interest, so the process could actually end up identifying zones for 3 GW of offshore wind.”
As plans for regular tenders for bottom-fixed and floating wind come together, work is at last expected to get underway in 2020 on one of France’s long-delayed Round 1 bottom-fixed offshore windfarms, Saint-Nazaire, following a June 2019 ruling by the Conseil d’Etat, France’s supreme administrative court, that it can finally go ahead. Developer EDF took a final investment decision for the project shortly after the ruling, and the windfarm should now be operational in 2022/2023.
Two other long-delayed projects, EDF’s 450-MW Courseulles and 498-MW Fecamp, also recently secured approval after appeals against them were rejected by the Conseil d’Etat, but a final go-ahead for another, Iberdrola’s 500-MW Saint-Brieuc windfarm was still awaited as of early November 2019, although appeals against it by an environmental group and rival developer Nass & Wind have been addressed. The remaining hurdle for this project mainly centres on the decision to use a somewhat larger, 8-MW turbine in place of the 5-MW Adwen turbine originally selected for it.
“The effect of the Dunkirk tender and the government’s decision to hold regular tenders for 1 GW has been profound,” says Mr Monnier. “As a result of that decision, there is a lot more appetite for offshore wind projects in France from developers, and not just those in France. Developers in France such as Engie can also see a potential path to becoming leaders in developing floating windfarms.”
As highlighted previously by OWJ, Engie and developer EDP recently signed a memorandum of understanding to create a 50/50 joint venture that will target the fixed and floating offshore wind markets. The new entity will be the exclusive vehicle of investment of EDP, through its subsidiary EDP Renewables (EDPR) and Engie for offshore wind opportunities worldwide.
“We expect to see a positive impact from this newfound interest in developing projects in France, not least on employment and job creation,” Mr Monnier concluded, also highlighting recent decisions by developers working in the US and UK markets to specify GE Renewable Energy’s 12-MW Haliade-X offshore wind turbine – which is being built in France – for high-profile projects.
Shell turns to French developer for floating wind expertise
Energy major Shell is the latest in a growing number of oil and gas companies indicating firm interest in floating wind and has announced its intention to acquire Eolfi in France.
It has signed an agreement to buy 100% of Eolfi, a developer that specialises in floating wind. The acquisition is subject to regulatory and ministerial approvals and is expected to complete in December 2019. On completion of the deal, Eolfi will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shell and will be fully integrated.
Shell offshore wind vice president Dorine Bosman says, “The acquisition brings specialist expertise to enhance Shell’s existing wind team and a floating wind pilot project which is an opportunity to leverage our offshore experience and project management expertise. This is also a significant step for Shell in France, where Shell sees opportunity to grow the offshore wind business.”
Eolfi’s founder Alain Delsupexhe says the company is becoming part Shell at a time when the market for floating wind is taking off globally. “Since our creation in 2004, Eolfi has been a pioneer in renewable power,” he says. “Our heritage in floating wind combined with Shell’s offshore expertise and global footprint will enable us to expand offshore. Joining forces with Shell will enable us to continue our mission of producing renewable and competitive electricity.”
Eolfi and partners are developing a pilot floating wind project in France, Groix & Belle-Île, off the coast of Brittany. Pending approvals, the project will see three wind turbines installed on semi-submersible floaters.