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12 March 2020

Iberdrola jumps into France’s nascent offshore wind market

By Andries Wantenaar

Iberdrola has reached a final investment decision for the Saint-Brieuc Offshore Wind Farm, France, after acquiring full ownership of Ailes Marines, which is developing the 496 MW project. With permission from the French Ministry of Economy, Iberdrola increased its ownership from 70% to 100%, buying 30% from Avel Vor, which is itself a joint venture of Renewable Energy Systems and Caisse des Depots.

The project is now scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and be completed in 2023, located across 75 square kilometers 16.3 kilometers off the coast of Brittany. All told the project will come to $2.7 billion. Iberdrola is a global offshore wind player with 12.4 GW under development, with Saint-Brieuc set to be the company’s first project in French waters. The company has three active offshore wind farms, namely Duddon Sands in the Irish Sea, Wikinger in the Baltic Sea, and the UK’s East Anglia One.

According to Jonathan Cole – Iberdrola’s Global Managing Director for offshore wind – all agreements, funding, and contracts are in place, with only a few legal and administrative matters awaiting swift conclusion, such as confirming offshore substation and inter-array line orders in coming weeks. The Ailes Marine consortium had been awarded the project back in 2012, but was delayed by a challenge from an environmental protection association and a rival developer. Ailes Marines received a favorable ruling from the Conseil d’Etat in 2019 regarding the legality of their operating license. The project has an 18-year PPA that starts from commissioning, which it has been entitled to ever since 2012.

Cole said, “Our detailed Industrial Plan will also support new factories and highly skilled clean energy jobs in France.” Siemens Gamesa is establishing a new turbine and blade factory at Le Havre, in Normandy; the factory will begin production in 2021, supplying the Saint-Brieuc, Yeu-Normatier, and Dieppe-Le-Treport offshore wind farms, each of which weigh in at 496 MW. At each of these three projects, sixty-two Siemens Gamesa SG 8.0-167 DD8 turbines will be used, each with 8 MW rated power, 167-meter diameter, and for this project, a total height of 207 meters. The turbine is a recent design which came online in 2019; it’s also lined up for projects in the USA, Taiwan, UK, Denmark, and Belgium.

Navantia and Windar, both Spanish companies, have formed a joint venture along with Port of Brest to produce three-legged jacket foundations for Saint-Brieuc. Assembly will begin in Spain and be completed at a facility to be founded near Brest, the port town at the very tip of Brittany.

In early 2022, Nexans will lay the 225 kV cabling to connect the project, with 93km onshore and 67km offshore. The submarine cabling will feature a novel hybrid armoring method and a fiber-optic element for monitoring its integrity and data transmission from wind farm to coast. Nexans will also maintain the cables, which it manufactured in Norway and Belgium.

France is a latecomer to offshore wind by European standards. Iberdrola’s Saint-Brieuc is not the only project to get into a legal and regulatory tangle throughout the 2010s, which has recently eased. Dieppe-Le-Treport was awarded in 2014, and is to be commissioned in 2023; Yeu-Noirmoutier was awarded in 2014 and will be commissioned in 2023, with one part of its website still holding an outdated optimistic claim of 2021; it is the 480 MW Saint-Nazaire, initially awarded in 2012, which is now on track to be France’s first offshore wind farm, coming online in 2022.

Last year, France announced a 1 GW per year target for its offshore wind, along with a tender of 250 MW floating wind to be launched in 2021, another 250 MW tender in 2022, and in 2024 a third tender of 250 or 500 MW. At the end of 2019, France had 16.5 GW of onshore wind capacity, which is intends to increase to 25 GW by 2023 and 35 GW in 2028; Solar was at 9.6 GW, and is planned to rise to 21 GW in 2023 and 40 GW in 2028.

Currently there are only 6 projects in the French offshore wind pipeline, amounting to 3.5 GW of total capacity. France will miss its previous target to have 500 MW in 2018 by four years, which will have a knock-on effect to other promises within the industry. Rethink Energy predicts that 5.9 GW of capacity will be installed by 2030, and that the true boom of the market will occur once floating wind enters the fray from the late 2020s.