(Updates with minister quote, background)
* EDF, Alstom selected to build 3 French offshore wind farms
* Iberdrola, Areva win fourth project
* Second round of tenders slated for H2 2012
* Offshore wind power output to start in 2020
By Muriel Boselli
PARIS, April 6 (Reuters) - State-owned utility EDF in partnership with Alstom has won the bulk of France’s first offshore wind farm tender, which is designed to kick-start the sector in the country, Energy Minister Eric Besson said on Friday.
The wind power projects would help France close a gap in renewable energy capacity behind other large European countries, as well as reduce its dependence on nuclear power.
EDF won three of the tenders for offshore wind sites, while a fourth was won by Spain’s Iberdrola in partnership with French state-owned nuclear reactor maker Areva.
The companies will build 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, equivalent to two small nuclear reactors, in northern France, with an investment of 7 billion euros ($9.1 billion), industry minister Eric Besson told a news conference.
“This decision will lead to the development of a new industrial sector with a global reach, with 10,000 jobs created, and position France among the leaders of the offshore industry,” Eric Besson told a news conference on Friday.
France launched the tender last July, for a maximum capacity of 3,000 MW, as part of a plan to increase its renewable power to meet 23 percent of energy demand by 2020.
The country’s onshore wind power currently covers 2.5 percent of consumption with 7,000 MW installed, massively behind Germany, the European Union’s top wind producer with 28,000 MW.
EDF won the tenders for sites at Saint-Nazaire, Courseulles-sur-Mer and Fecamp, while Iberdrola and Areva will build a fourth wind farm at Saint-Brieuc
Production at the sites will start in 2020, Besson added.
Factories building turbines will be set up at Saint-Nazaire, Cherbourg and Le Havre, all on France’s northwestern coast.
France’s GDF Suez and Germany’s Siemens were unsuccessful in a bid to build an offshore wind farm at a fifth site at Le Treport, although Besson said the site project is expected to be included in a second tender package expected in the second half of 2012.
The EDF consortium plans to install Alstom’s Haliade, the largest offshore wind turbine in the world with a diameter of 150 metres - roughly half the size of the Eiffel tower.
“These projects, corresponding to up to 1,500 MW of new installed capacity, go hand in hand with an ambitious industrial plan which should create about 7,500 direct and indirect jobs, notably with the manufacturing of Alstom’s Haliade 150 wind turbine,” EDF and Alstom said in a joint statement.
Alstom has pledged to establish up to four plants in north-western France through an investment of 100 million euros to support the production of the turbines in the event of a successful bid.
France has lagged behind countries such as Germany, the UK, Spain and Denmark in developing both wind and solar energy.
Britain so far is the world’s top offshore wind market with around 2,000 megawatts (MW) installed and plans to become a major hub for offshore wind manufacturing and research.
Even with the planned offshore wind projects, France has a lot of catching up to do, according to a European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) report published in November.
The report showed that total installed offshore wind capacity in Europe in 2020 would be 40 gigawatts, compared with less than 3 GW at the end of 2010. Britain already has current and planned projects for 47 GW and Germany for 31 GW.
The EWEA estimates that between 2021 and 2030, the annual market for offshore for wind turbines could grow from 7.8 GW to 13.7 GW in 2030.
“Europe’s offshore wind potential is enormous and able to meet Europe’s demand seven times over,” the body says on its website.
$1 = 0.7655 euros Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Elena Berton; Editing by Jane Baird