Right at the end of last year, on 29 December, wind power in France covered a record 10% of the country’s electricity demand, the French blog “habitat durable” reported. France’s wind power fleet reached a power production equivalent to 5,982 MW – the same level as six nuclear reactors.
During the month of December in general, wind energy met 4% of France’s electricity needs, and in 2012 the average level was 3% – meeting the electricity needs of 6 million people.
“Wind energy production during recent weeks illustrates the characteristic trait of French wind energy: every year, wind energy production is higher during the coldest months,” the blog said.
The French government will launch an offshore wind tender worth around 1GW by the end of the year, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault revealed at the weekend. He made the announcement during a government-hosted conference on the environment at which he and President Francois Hollande promised a plan to kick-start the renewables industry in France.
The previous government under the leadership of Nicholas Sarkozy awarded tenders to build offshore wind farms to produce 2 GW of energy in April, and this new tender is being seen as the second part of the initial offer. A full second round should be launched next year. The French wind energy association said the announcement was “good news”, but called for the government to “rapidly envisage a third tender for 3 GW” if the country were to meet its objectives of producing 6 GW from offshore wind turbines by 2020.
Delphine Batho, French Minister for Ecology
The French minister for ecology has promised her government will set down stable rules for renewable energies as the wind industry demands action to save it from the “critical” state is has been in since May when France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule whether the country’s premium purchase price for onshore wind constituted state aid.
“We will define stable rules for renewable energies for the duration of the government’s five-year mandate,” says Delphine Batho in the September issue of the French sustainable development magazine Terra Eco. She admits that “in the past few years, the incessant changes to rules, purchase prices, moratoriums etc., have profoundly destabilised” the industry. These “rules” are expected to be discussed at a conference on the environment to be hosted by the government on 14-15 September.
Support for the onshore wind industry in France has blown hot and cold in recent months, but government backing for offshore was reinforced in April by its decision to award tenders to build offshore wind farms to produce 2 GW of energy. French company Nass&Wind Offshore, is taking full advantage of this momentum and investing in LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) measuring devices – a move it believes will give it a competitive advantage when the government decides to release a second offshore tender later this year.
LiDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that Nass&Wind is using to measure the speed of wind and turbulence up to an altitude of 200 metres – higher than the nacelle generally located 100 metres above sea level, says the company. Nass&Wind has now installed two of these devices off the coast of western France to try to accurately determine the power production potential of planned offshore wind farms.
After a difficult few months for the French wind industry, Nicole Bricq, appointed French minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, and now minister for external commerce, signalled her support for the sector and promised she will ensure that new projects can go ahead as planned.
The wind sector took a knock of confidence in May when France’s highest administrative court the Council of State asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule whether the country’s premium purchase price for onshore wind constitutes state aid. The tariff remains in place – it could take the court up to two years to make a final decision – but the referral has cast a wave of uncertainty over the industry.