France to launch offshore wind tender on Tuesday

PARIS Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:27pm GMT

A seagull flies past wind turbines at Thanet Offshore Wind Farm off the Kent coast in southern England September 23, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A seagull flies past wind turbines at Thanet Offshore Wind Farm off the Kent coast in southern England September 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy will detail on Tuesday a tender for the construction of the country's first offshore wind power farms, an ecology ministry spokeswoman said on Monday.

France aims to build wind power capacity of 25,000 megawatts by 2020, including 6,000 MW offshore, for an investment of 20 billion euros ($27.1 billion) to meet its goal of generating enough green energy to cover 23 percent of demand.

A delay in the tender, which was initially expected in September, has led to anxiety among industrial companies.

The government aims to install some 600 wind power turbines for a capacity of 3,000 MW -- equivalent to the capacity of 3 small nuclear reactors, French daily Le Figaro wrote in its Monday edition, citing sources from the environment ministry.

The tender will be organized by the French energy regulator with a start-up of the offshore farms by 2015, it added.

One sore point for the government is the lack of a French industry capable of building offshore wind turbines.

Manufacturers of the offshore turbines include Germany's Siemens and Denmark's Vestas, but there are none in France, where capacity is so far nonexistent.

TECHNICAL CHALLENGES

Britain has 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.

Some 30 French projects of offshore wind farms are in the works for a capacity of 8,000 MW, which would exceed the target of 6,000 MW, although many of them were not very advanced.

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

Vestas, Germany's Repower and France's 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. (Reporting by Muriel Boselli, editing by Jane Baird)

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