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France to launch call for tenders on 'floating' offshore wind projects

France's Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy will seek expressions of interest later this month from businesses looking to pilot new floating offshore wind projects.28 Jul 2015

The ecology ministry said that (link in French) the pilot projects will receive financial support from France's €150 million investment programme, programme d'investissement d'avenir, and qualify for a feed-in tariff from the French government.

Four sites have already been picked out as potential development sites: one in Brittany; one in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur; and two in Languedoc-Roussillon. The ministry has worked with "all sea users" in the regions, particularly fisherman, to identify the most appropriate areas in terms of both technical suitability and public acceptability, it said.

The wind projects will form a promising new industrial sector for France, the ministry said.

Floating offshore wind technology allows the turbines to be installed in previously inaccessible places, with less environmental impact because foundations can be replaced with anchors.

France has set a target of powering 40% of the country's electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2030, and these projects will help it to achieve that, the ministry said.

Paris-based infrastructure expert Peter Rosher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The news that this ambitious floating offshore wind initiative is now ready to go out to tender is very welcome against the backdrop of a morose economic climate." 

"It is good for France’s clean energy ambitions, and it comes at an opportune moment in terms of job creation as offshore wind projects create thousands of jobs throughout the entire life cycle of the wind farm. It should put France at the forefront in Europe of innovative offshore floating wind farm technology," Rosher said.

French energy company GDF Suez was selected by the French government to install and operate two 500 megawatt offshore wind farms last year. The projects, which are scheduled to be operational by 2021, will create up to 6,000 direct and indirect jobs.