With a 10 billion euro offshore project now underway, France has emerged as a surprise contender for the continent’s wind energy elite. We chart the rise and rise of the country’s power ambitions.
The new wind farms, which will comprise some 1,200 turbines, spread over five sites off the north and west coast of France, are expected to generate 3.5 per cent of the country’s electricity output, the French ecology and industry ministries said; “Our objective is to rebalance the energy mix in favour of renewables,” said Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, ecology minister. The initial tender will be followed by a second in April 2012. The farms are expected to come online between 2015 and 2020.
The long-awaited tender is part of a wider government push to make renewable energy account for 23 per cent of total energy production by 2020. It also comes as France’s government is under increasing pressure to reduce its dependence on nuclear power; “France remains attached to nuclear power, but we are also weighing up the markets of the future and their new technologies” said the ecology minister.
President Nicholas Sarkozy has said that the aim of the project is not only to produce greater amounts of energy from renewable sources, but also to build a wind power industry for the country; “Our aim is to have an outstanding national sector emerge to build the means to produce these off-shore wind turbines and to look towards exporting them,” he said in a speech in the western port of Saint-Nazaire. French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet echoed the Presidents words “The aim is to create a French industry and gain a leadership position in the world,” she said, “We are calling for industry to mobilise to create a subsidiary of excellence.”