PARIS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - French engineering firm Alstom said it will bid jointly with energy company GDF Suez for a pilot project the government is launching later on Monday to develop wave and tidal energy.
The construction project for some 30 to 40 undersea turbines at a site off the Normandy coast is expected to start in 2015, with full-scale commercial production pencilled in for sometime between 2020-2025, sources told Reuters earlier this month.
France has Europe's second-biggest tidal energy potential after Britain with a production capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 megawatts, energy industry experts estimate. That is equivalent to three to five average-sized nuclear reactors.
President Francois Hollande is due to launch the production tender on Monday at the Normandy site, where GDF Suez Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet and Jerome Pecresse, head of Alstom's renewable energy branch, signed a cooperation deal.
"Alstom and GDF Suez will jointly define the technical parameters that will allow to make best use of the Raz Blanchard current (a high potential marine site in northwestern France)," Alstom said in a statement.
Alstom is already testing a 1-MW turbine in Scottish waters. Britain has 12 large-scale prototype sea turbines in operation with a generating capacity of 9 MW of clean electricity, more than the rest of the world combined.
Operating on the same principle as wind turbines, the power in marine turbines comes from tidal currents which turn blades similar to ships' propellers, but unlike wind the tides are predictable and the power output is constant. (Reporting by Muriel Boselli; Editing by John Stonestreet)