France wind power capacity reaches 4,000 MW

The installed wind power capacity in France reached 4,000 MW. Up to 25 GW will have to be installed by 2020. Out of these, five are due to be wind energy offshore.

France becomes the fourth European nation in terms of installed capacity, behind Germany, Spain and Italy. To date, around 2,500 wind turbines have been already installed and 6,000 will have to be implemented by 2020. France benefits from the second largest potential wind energy capacity in Europe.

Now employing 7,000 people, the French wind power industry is expected to grow to 18,000 people by 2012. The French government plans to produce 21% of its electricity consumption with renewable energy in 2010 to comply with European directive 2001/77/CE of 27 September 2001. This means that France has to produce 106 TWh of renewable energy in 2010 when it only produced 71 TWh in 2006. Wind power represents 75% of the 35 TWh additional production in 2010.

France enjoys an abundant wind potential, and is continuing to see strong growth. In 2000, France had only 30 MW of wind generating capacity, mostly small wind turbines in the French overseas territories. At the end of 2008, the total installed wind capacity stood at 3.4 GW, representing an annual growth rate of 38%. France now is the fourth largest market in Europe after Germany, Spain and Italy.

The average size of an installed wind turbine in France has increased from an average of 1.2 MW per turbine in 2005 to 1.95 MW in 2008, and is expected to reach 2.5 MW by 2010. The average size of wind farms has also been continuously increasing, from 4.7 MW to 13 MW between 2002 and 2008. It is estimated that the average wind farm size could reach 20 MW by 2010.

In 2008, French wind farms produced 5.6 TWh, with an average capacity factor of 24%. The wind sector now provides around 7,000 jobs to the French economy.

The biggest potential for growth in the coming years is estimated to be in the north and the north east of the country. By 2010, it is expected that the areas for greatest development would all be in the north of France. Out of 4,000 MW of approved wind power projects, more than 700 MW are in the Champagne-Ardennes region and 500 MW in the Picardy region.

The largest wind park in France is in Fruges, in the north of the country, with 70 wind turbines accounting for 140 MW. Built in 2007, the Cormainville wind farm in Eure-et-Loir has an installed capacity of 60 MW and the La-Voie-Sacré wind farm in Lorraine has 54 MW. The largest manufacturers active in the French market are Enercon, Vestas, REpower, Nordex and Gamesa, accounting for 86% of the total capacity in 2007.

The policy framework for wind energy in France

A feed-in tariff was introduced in France in 2002, ensuring a tariff of 8.2 ct€/kWh for a period of 10 years, which then decreases during the next five years of the contract.

In July 2005, this law was amended to stipulate that in order to be eligible for the feed-in tariff, wind farms must be built in special Wind Power Development Zones (ZDE). These zones are defined at the regional level based on the criteria of electrical production potential, grid connection capacity and landscape protection. The law also did away with the previous size limit of 12 MW for wind farms.

The feed-in tariff in the ZDE was reaffirmed in a decree signed on 17th November 2008, after the previous decree was cancelled by the Conseil d’Etat, the highest administrative court, in August 2008.

Policy developments in 2008: The Grenelle Objectives and the introduction of regional renewable energy schemes

In 2007, during the Grenelle de l’environnement (*) process, the French Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables (SER) suggested a wind power generation target of 25 GW by 2020, including 6 GW offshore. This objective would allow France to reach the European target of 23% of final energy consumption from renewable energy by 2020, as outlined in the new EU Renewables Directive.

This last objective has so far been adopted by the National Assembly and should be adopted by the Senate in the coming months (Grenelle 1 law). The law will finally be approved by the end of 2009 and will come into force shortly thereafter.

Another law from the Grenelle legislative process (Grenelle 2) is expected to be issued in 2009 and will provide for the implementation of renewable energy schemes at the regional level. The schemes should be elaborated both by the executive representative of the state at a regional level (préfet) and by the elected president of the regional council following a consultation process. The aim of these regional schemes is to determine geographical zones for the development of renewable energy, with a specific section for wind energy.

Despite these new provisions, the ZDE will continue to exist, with an additional criterion for the preservation of landscapes. The implementation of regional schemes requires that all ZDEs that are created after the implementation of schemes comply with the regional schemes.

Remaining obstacles to wind energy development

Despite the high wind power potential in France, there are several barriers that remain and hinder the development of wind energy in the country. Barriers include: slow authorization procedure for both ZDE and individual authorizations; inadequate grid connection capacity; and zones in which installation is forbidden.

Rather than promoting wind energy development, the ZDE law has hampered the growth of the French market, since it has resulted in longer and more complex administrative and grid connection procedures. A 2007 study issued by the Ministry of Industry and Economy indicates that 9 weeks are necessary to notify the applicant that the application process is launched and the authorization generally takes 22 weeks to be completed.

Adequate grid connection remains a problem in some areas of France, although some commitment has been made towards reinforcing the French grid to accommodate more wind development.

Offshore wind energy in France

Offshore wind development in France is slow, as there is no specific legislative or administrative framework for the development of offshore wind energy, and the framework applying to offshore economic activity is not adapted to wind energy. Preparation for the first offshore wind farm in France began with a government tender in 2005, but due to long authorization procedures, construction has been delayed and is now scheduled to start in 2009 or 2010.

However, there are indications that the principle of exclusion zones will no longer be applicable offshore, and work has begun on simplifying offshore planning procedures.

Wind Power in France
2002: 148 MW.
2003: 253 MW.
2004: 390 MW
2005: 757 MW.
2006: 1,567 MW.
2007: 2,454 MW.
2008: 3,404 MW
2020: 25,000 MW