France to Seek Bids for Offshore Wind Power Farms

France will seek bids for offshore wind farms by the end of the year to raise renewable energy production and catch up with its neighbors in building sea-based turbines, a government official said.

France will designate 5 to 10 offshore areas that have been evaluated for their “environmental compatibility,” Pierre- Franck Chevet, an official at the Environment and Energy Ministry, said in Paris yesterday.

The country, which doesn’t have any offshore wind parks, is seeking to emulate neighbors such as the U.K. in sea-based wind energy, considered more reliable and less intrusive on local communities than onshore turbines. GDF Suez SA, owner of the French natural-gas network, is planning a 1.8 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) windpark offshore northern France, which is being publically assessed for its environmental impact.

The tender process will evaluate the engineering costs of each project to set the price at which power from the turbines can be sold to French utilities, Chevet said.

Marion Lettry, deputy head of the Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, a renewable energy industry group, said yesterday that the current government-determined price of 130 euros a megawatt-hour for offshore wind energy “is not sufficient” for developing such farms.

Feed-In Tariff

This so-called feed-in tariff at which Electricite de France SA has to buy renewable energy appears “to be insufficient” to boost deployment of offshore wind, the International Energy Agency said yesterday in a report on French energy policy. The Paris-based adviser said “more complex and lengthy” administrative procedures for offshore wind may also hinder the country’s ability to reach a target of getting a quarter of renewable energy from wind in 2020.

The government is targeting 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2020.

Compagnie du Vent, the GDF Suez unit vying to develop the 705-megawatt wind-farm project about 14 kilometers (9 miles) offshore Le Treport in northern France, selected the site as the most favorable in the country for developing the energy, according to documents put on the website of the public inquiry into the project.

‘Deux Cotes’

Compagnie du Vent, in which GDF Suez bought a majority stake in 2007, first proposed the project, which could provide enough power to meet the annual needs of 900,000 people, five years ago. It was rejected by local authorities at the end of 2006 and reapplied for a permit the next year, according to a company document.

The “Deux Cotes” project site was selected because it has dominant and sufficiently strong southern and southwestern winds and onshore grid connection at the Penly nuclear station about 30 kilometers away, it said.

Other French sites also considered favorable are further west near Le Havre, offshore Saint Nazaire along the Atlantic coast and one near Utah beach in Normandy, from which allied troops invaded occupied France during the Second World War, according to the documents.

Local homeowners, fisheries and environmental groups have criticized the project, according to the website of the public inquiry, which runs through Sept. 10.

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