France Goes Big for Offshore Wind

Vous avez offshore wind power? Soon France will be able to say ‘oui’ in a serious way, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently announced the country will be investing more than €10 billion (over $13.5 billion USD) on sea-based wind farms off the coast of northern France.

According to the European Wind Energy Association, France is currently ranked as Europe’s fourth largest wind market–after Germany, Spain and Italy–while boasting the continent’s second largest offshore wind potential. Now it would appear that Sarkozy aims to close the gap between actual and potential offshore wind power,while meeting France’s renewable energy target of 23% by 2020. The country is largely powered, at present, by its extensive nuclear power facilities.

offshore wind power

image via Vattenfall

At the end of 2009, France had nearly 4,500 megawatts (MWs)  of onshore wind power installed along its coastline. Now the French government has given the go-ahead to five offshore wind farm projects selected by a call for proposals managed by Alstom and EDF Energies Nouvelles, the former of which will be the exclusive supplier of 6-megawatt offshore wind turbines for the projects. The five wind farms now slated for areas off the coasts of Normandy, Brittany and Loire-Atlantique are expected to have a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW), enough with the capacity to power both Lyon and Marseille.

France is certainly thinking in no small terms here, projecting about 10,000 jobs being created in its offshore wind energy sector and having at least 6,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2020. In 2009 wind turbines in this country generated 7.8 TWh of electricity, which is said to be a 40% increase from 2008, but still only 1.6% of total power consumption.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.