Electricite de France SA completed installing an underwater cable that will connect to seabed turbines off Brittany’s coast, putting the utility’s tidal energy farm on schedule for power production in 2014.
The Paimpol-Brehat project, located in the northwestern region of France, which has historically rejected nuclear power, may be among the biggest commercial-scale installations of its kind in the world when it is completed, the utility said.
“It’s a symbol of our ambition in marine energy,” EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio said yesterday at the port of Brest, where the utility displayed one of the four turbines designed to capture half a megawatt each of tidal energy. “This will be the first time there will be four turbines making power at the same time.”
Energy from the waves and tides has the potential to produce 15,000 megawatts in Europe, with about a fifth of the total in France, according to Paris-based EDF. The utility is using technology developed by OpenHydro Group Ltd., an Irish turbine maker. France is planning to install 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy by 2020.
In the U.K., the government has estimated as much as 20 percent of current domestic electricity demand could be met by the sea. Scotland alone is estimated to have as much as a quarter of Europe’s tidal resources and 10 percent of its wave potential. No commercial-scale projects are currently operating as the technology is still in its infancy and expensive to develop.
“The potential of marine energy is very large, but it’s not technically mature,” Bernard Salha, director of research and development at EDF, said yesterday.
EDF’s 2-megawatt pilot project, located in a region which currently meets just a 10th of its electricity demand, will undergo a new round of tests in the coming months to determine whether the turbines can be kept as long as four years under water before maintenance is needed, according to the utility. They will be placed in a waters near Ile-de-Brehat at a depth of about 35 meters.
In addition to the Paimpol-Brehat project, EDF plans to invest 100 million euros ($126 million) to renovate an existing tidal power station at La Rance, also in Brittany, which was inaugurated in 1966.
“We want to prolong the life of this unique site,” Proglio said. “It wasn’t profitable when it was first built but has become relevant today.”
French utility GDF Suez SA is also studying the possibility of installing turbines at two sites off the French coast.
The Raz Blanchard site in the northwest represents half the nation’s potential for power from ocean currents, GDF Suez said in June. The company plans to install a pilot plant of three to six turbines from 2015 with a capacity of 3 megawatts to 12 megawatts and could develop a commercial plant of as many as 100 turbines. It has another project planned at the Passage du Fromveur site from 2016.