With more than 3,500 km of coastline, France has the second largest offshore wind potential in Europe – yet until now no active offshore wind farms. France's first offshore wind farm will have 80 wind turbines generating the equivalent of 20% of the Loire-Atlantique department's electricity consumption needs. Ten years after the French government announced its ambition to develop an offshore wind industry, the €2.3 billion financial closing of the Saint-Nazaire offshore windfarm project, due to be commissioned in 2022, paves the way for the more rapid development and take-up of a core, strategic segment of renewable energy in France.
Saint-Nazaire's 480MW power facility will be France's first ever offshore wind farm. Developed by EDF Renewables and Enbridge, it has raised €2.3 billion.
The Multiannual Energy Plan ("PPE") announced by President Emmanuel Macron in November 2018 is a new framework to drive forward France's energy transition. Along with other responsible growth objectives, France aims to generate 40% of national electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030 (compared with 23% today) and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of EDF Group, and Enbridge, a North American energy infrastructure company, jointly control the Eolien Maritime France holding company (EMF) that has won the competitive bidding for the Saint-Nazaire wind farm project, as well as two other projects in Courseulles-sur-Mer and Fécamp. Both sponsors already have expertise in the development, construction and operation of offshore wind projects in Europe.
As the first offshore wind farm ever financed in France, Saint-Nazaire sets a core benchmark for future regulated project financing. BNP Paribas acted as sole Financial Advisor, Joint Underwriter, Joint Bookrunner and Sole Hedge Execution Bank for a debt amount totalling €2.3 billion. It is also the largest ever underwriting in the global offshore wind sector, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs in the offshore wind power industry.
Romain Talagrand, Managing Director for Renewable Energy at BNP Paribas, explains that Saint-Nazaire was crucial in setting up the industrial, legal and financing frameworks for the French offshore wind industry. "Coupled with the recent record-breaking tender for Dunkirk, the offshore wind industry has now demonstrated both its industrial viability and its ability to deliver CO2 emissions-free electricity at large-scale and at a competitive cost, a combination that few, if any, other technology can match", he says.
Offshore wind turbines, which operate at full power 45% of the time, are far more efficient than their land-based counterparts (21%). Eighty 150-6MW wind turbines, each measuring 150 metres in diameter and positioned between 12 to 20 km off Saint-Nazaire's coast, will power the project. They should be able to supply energy to 400,000 households – and save up to 21,000 tons of CO2 a year.
Jérôme Pécresse, President & CEO of GE Renewable Energy, which is behind the construction of the turbines, says the company is one of the key global offshore wind specialists – and the only one with presence in France. "Until now, our French manufacturing facilities have been solely dedicated to exports for international offshore projects in the US, China and Germany," he explains. "Today, we are delighted to finally be able to contribute with our technology and French industrial footprint to what will become the first offshore wind farm in France."
With the turbines due to be installed during the second half of 2022, a consortium of firms will also build an offshore substation, whose purpose is to collect and transform the electricity produced by the wind turbines and transfer it to land. "This signature is excellent news for our teams and for employment – we are recruiting more than 450 people in 2019," explains Frédéric Grizaud, Director of Atlantic Offshore Energy, which is part of Chantiers de l'Atlantique (the firm leading the consortium). "This project will strengthen the French offshore wind industry which faces particularly competitive market dynamics."
RTE, the French transmission system operator, will be connecting all the electricity produced by the farm to the national electric grid, and has the responsibility to build and finance the grid connection from the offshore substation to the mainland. François Brottes, Chairman of the Executive Board of RTE, says that the firm's know-how in this field is vital. "Our experience of underwater interconnections and our offshore investments over the past 10 years means we are ready to connect the new offshore wind farms to the electricity grid," he explains. "We have already started the connection works for Saint-Nazaire and, in doing so, we wholeheartedly support the objectives set by the PPE."
In total, the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs in the Pays de la Loire region, including 100 permanent jobs in La Turballe, for maintenance and operation activities.