France is about to embark on its fourth round of offshore wind development, but urgently needs to reduce the time it takes to get projects underway
With a tender process for the fourth round of French offshore windfarms approaching and a target of 1 GW of offshore to be auctioned every year for the rest of the decade, France’s government is hoping to speed up the pace at which development takes place and compress development timescales.
The consultation process for France’s Fourth Round of offshore wind, in Manche est Mer du Nord in the Atlantic region of the country or the ‘Normandy Round’ as it has become known, was completed in August 2020. A report summarising the consultation was published in mid-October. If some of the issues raised in it can be successfully addressed, a Round Four tender could be launched by the end of the year, France Energie Eolienne deputy chief executive Matthieu Monnier tells Offshore Wind Journal.
The tender is expected to be for at least 1 GW of bottom-fixed offshore wind capacity, potentially more. “We have asked the government to increase the size of the tender,” Mr Monnier explains. “We can’t be sure how big it might be yet, but we expect it to be in the range of 1-2 GW. Boosting it in that way would be consistent with the green recovery. We should know more about how large the tender might be later this year.”
At 10,000 km2, the Manche est Mer du Nord area is large enough to accommodate much more than 1 GW of offshore wind capacity, with several zones that could accommodate large-scale projects of the type being developed elsewhere in Europe. It is also large enough to accommodate potential developments in Round 5, says Mr Monnier.
But so slow has the pace of offshore wind development in France been, that changes need to be made if ambitious goals for decarbonisation are to be met.
Of a quartet of Round 1 projects, three have reached a final investment decision but a fourth has yet to do so. France does not yet have steel in the water for any offshore wind project, although foundation installation for the first, Saint-Nazaire, should get underway next year.
It has been suggested that, by 2030, France’s ambitious plan to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources could make the country Europe’s fourth-largest offshore wind power province by 2030, with 7.4 GW of capacity in operation. But unless the predevelopment and development process can be speeded up, that seems questionable.
Recently, proposals were tabled to simplify procedures for the development of offshore wind projects and to optimise the administrative framework.
Considered by the French parliament in recent weeks, if they are adopted, preselection of candidates for a tender will be initiated earlier than has been the case until now and would be launched while the public consultation process takes place, not after it.
Also under consideration are changes to the way legal challenges to projects are dealt with and where they are heard. In future, it is anticipated, appeals would be dealt with by a single jurisdiction, rather than being heard at two levels of jurisdiction.
“If the Conseil d’État (France’s administrative supreme court) were to deal with litigation exclusively, it could reduce the process by around 18 months,” Mr Monnier explains.
“If conditional preselection of consortia could take place in parallel with the public consultation process, on the basis of their technical and financial merit, that would also save several months.”
Apart from Round 4, a tender for commercial-scale floating offshore wind is due to take place in the near term. The public consultation process for that started in July 2020 and is due to be completed in late November. Only after that will the tender procedure be launched, sometime early in 2021.