French Prime Minister Jean Castex this week made calls for tenders for two floating wind farm projects in the Mediterranean in a new push to establish the technology in the country.
The floating, offshore wind farms, which would comprise around 20 turbines each, would be the first of their kind in French waters. The aim is for them to be built by 2030.
One “park” is planned around 20 kilometres off the coast of Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude), and another around 20 kilometres off the coast of Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône), “depending on results from the most recent environmental studies”, Mr Castex said.
The projects are expected to be confirmed in 2023, with each wind farm set to produce 250 megawatts (MW). This is enough electricity for the usage of around one million residents.
Mr Castex added that “each park could be extended in the next phase [of building], to produce 750 megawatts [each] and cover 10% of the power consumption in the Occitanie and Paca regions”.
50 wind farms by 2050
He said that France is set to increase its capacity in the wind power generation sector over the next few decades, amid accusations that the country has been slow to make use of the technology.
The objective is to “construct 50 wind farms in the sea by 2050”, which would produce 40 gigawatts (GW) in total capacity, the equivalent of “20% of the electricity consumption in France”.
Floating wind farm technology, still in its early stages, has never been used in a commercial “farm” or park in France. However, calls for tender for a park in Brittany first went out in 2021.
Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili visited Port-la-Nouvelle yesterday (Monday, March 14) on the occasion of Mr Castex’s announcement.
Controversy, campaigns, and court rulings
Wind farms have attracted controversy and criticism in France in recent years, with a court in Hérault last year ordering the “historic” demolition of seven turbines after it found they were built without the correct permission.
Similarly, in February this year, a court in Brittany sided with residents who claimed that three “XXL” wind turbines built near a small village had the capacity to “damage the landscape and the amenities of surrounding homes”.
And in November last year, a court in Toulouse found that a wind farm near a couple’s home had caused them physical, emotional and financial distress, and awarded them €128,000 in compensation, in recognition of the pair’s suffering, and the devaluation of their property and plans for the land.
In 2020, an open letter signed by 22 high-profile opponents appeared in Le Figaro. It included claims that wind farms are “deadly for landscapes and our fishermen, useless for climate defence and will soon become unbearable for the finances of individuals, as well as the state".
Yet, France is committed to doubling – at least – the number of wind turbines by 2028, and has put wind power generation at the heart of plans to increase its use of renewable energy sources.