December 13, 2010 / 1:53 PM / 9 years ago

France needs to catch up delay in offshore wind: report

PARIS (Reuters) - France needs to urgently launch its first tender for the construction of offshore wind farms if the sector wants to catch up its technological delay, PriceWaterhouseCooper said in a report on Monday.

France aims to build a wind power output capacity of 25,000 MW by 2020, including 6,000 MW in offshore capacity for a 20 billion euro ($26.38 billion) investment, to help it meet its goal of 23 percent of green energies it its demand mix by 2020.

But the government has not yet launched a much-awaited tender for the first 3,000 MW in offshore capacity, threatening the competitivity of French firms in Europe, where 20 percent of wind power is expected to come from offshore output by 2015.

Manufacturers of offshore wind turbines include Germany’s Siemens, Denmark’s Vestas but there are none in France where capacity is so far inexistent.

“France must not miss the opportunity to develop an offshore wind power sector as it has the means to do so,” Alexis Chauffert-Yvart, author of the report, told journalists at a press briefing. “France will catch up its delay thanks to innovation,” he added.

Earlier this year, Britain awarded a series of offshore wind projects that will deliver up to 32,000 MW of capacity or enough to meet a quarter of Britain’s electricity need by 2020.

Other offshore programs are being developed in Belgian, Danish, Dutch, German, Irish, and Swedish waters.

TECHNICAL CHALLENGES

Around 30 French projects of offshore wind farms are in the works for a total capacity of 8,000 MW, against a national target of 6,000 MW, although many of them were not very advanced, he said.

While French firms were in a bad position to build offshore wind turbines, they could however use the good port infrastructure to assemble parts of the turbines before exporting them.

Offshore wind farms present many technical challenges, including how to provide maintenance and cope with potential gearbox failures in the winter.

Turbines makers like Danish group Vestas, German peer Repower, and French company Alstom could figure among the bidders.

French utilities such as EDF, GDF Suez or EDF Energies Nouvelles could submit proposals to operate the wind farms.

One megawatt produced by offshore wind power costs 3.5 million euros against 1.6 millions for one megawatt generated by onshore capacity, Chauffert-Yvart said.

Reporting by Muriel Boselli

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