PARIS (Reuters) - France has launched a tender for several floating offshore wind turbine projects in what is set to be the first attempt to test this new technology on an industrial scale.
French environment agency ADEME on Wednesday posted a tender document inviting companies to submit proposals to build floating wind farms with between three to six turbines each, with a capacity of at least 5 megawatts per turbine in three sites in the Mediterranean and one site off southern Brittany.
Portugal and Norway have pioneered the new technology in the past few years with a single floating turbine each, and Portugal plans to build a 25 MW floating wind demonstration farm, but the French project will be the first to test floating offshore wind on a large scale.
Floating turbines are built for waters deeper than the roughly 50 meters maximum for foundation-based turbines and offer huge potential as they are not limited to shallow coasts.
Bidders for the French pilots will have to propose how much capacity they want to build and will have to specify which feed-in tariff they want to get for the electricity produced and how much financial support they need.
The government has made 150 million euros ($163.53 million) available, one third as investment subsidies, two thirds as a loan.
Feed-in tariff bids could range between 150 to 275 euros per megawatt, according to industry specialists, who expect the government will select two or three bids with a total combined capacity of 45 to 100 megawatt, depending on the number and size of the turbines proposed.
Bids will be selected on the basis of technical merits and financial solidity but also on the degree to which the bid partners can contribute to the growth of a floating offshore wind industry in France, the tender document said.
France lags way behind Germany, Denmark and Britain in offshore wind, but has already launched two fixed-foundation offshore tenders for which French firms Alstom and Areva will build the turbines.
The consortium members for those tenders - French utilities EDF and Engie, Spanish utility Iberdrola and Portuguese utility EDP Renovaveis - are possible bidders for the floating offshore tender.
Other possible contenders are smaller players like French windfarm developers Quadran or Eole-Res, or Ideol - which has developed a floating platform for offshore wind turbines.
The tender will close on April 4, 2016 and the French prime minister will decide on the bids.
Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Andrew Callus