The scheme could see giant wave turbines installed in offshore energy parks off the coast of Normandy and Brittany and Mr Hollande launched a call for expressions of interest for pilot tidal farms using the latest technology including underwater turbines.
The first pilot will be at Raz Blanchard off the Cotentin coast with the first turbines commissioned as early as 2016. Two leaders in the sector, Alstom and GDF Suez, signed a new agreement to pool their expertise.
Alstom marine turbines will be used by GDF Suez on a pilot at the Raz Blanchard energy site along with the existing VOITH turbines. The site is close to the port of Cherbourg between the Normandy coast and the Channel Island of Aurigny and is famous for its fast currents which commercial shipping entering that part of the English Channel avoid.
The marine energy sector is already well established at Cherbourg where the deal was agreed following talks between M. Hollande and the industry leaders. Last February, GDF SUEZ signed a first partnership agreement with Voith, CMN, Cofely-Endel and ACE for assembly and maintenance of a pilot turbine plant in Cherbourg.
â€˜The goal of GDF Sues is to be a front line player in tidal renewable energy and position itself at the two largest French tidal power sites where 80% of the potential of this energy source are concentrated,â€™ said a spokesman.
The company has pledged to take environmental considerations and maritime practices into account, particularly those important to the local fishing industry.
Alstom and GDF Suez will work on a joint pilot project to establish the various technical parameters to effectively harness the currents at the Raz Blanchard site where the pilot farms will be installed.
They will also draw up an operation and maintenance strategy for the marine energy farms and a roadmap to maximise the positive socio-economic benefits to the new sector for the Normandy region and the whole of France.
Mr Hollande said that the agreement is an important step to support the development of larger commercial offshore energy farms. â€˜In the coming decade marine energy farms installed in French waters could provide three gigawatts per hour, the equivalent of three nuclear reactors. The role of government is to create an industrial sector to be a leader in the world and to create a regulatory framework,’ he explained.
The Raz Blanchard site and another off the Finistere coast in Brittany will be subsidised with â‚¬30 million of public money going on each one. The price of the energy produced will be set at â‚¬175 megawatts per hour.
Alstom is currently testing its 1 MW tidal turbine off Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The firm said that it has been successful and the turbine has reached the full nominal power of 1 MW, generating over 10 MWh of electricity on the grid. Trials performed in pilot farms will test the performance of the turbine under real operating conditions.
Alstom has also signed an agreement with the Normandy Ports Association (PNA) which could allow the Group to perform the final assembly of the turbines, the erection of the foundations and all maintenance operations from Cherbourg.
Cherbourg offers many benefits for the industry, including a development plan covering 40 hectares for infrastructure devoted to tidal power, as well as the proximity of the Raz Blanchard site and the British coastline, which represents a substantial potential market.
â€˜Signing this agreement will bolster the port’s’ development strategy in marine energy,â€™ said Laurent Beauvais, chairman of the Lower Normandy Region and of the Council of the Mixed Ports Association of Caen-Ouistreham and Cherbourg.
â€˜We are pleased to team up with GDF Suez for the development of the Raz Blanchard tidal power pilot farm. We will provide a reliable, environmentally friendly and efficient technology which will help to deliver power at an optimal cost,â€™ said JÃ©rÃ´me PÃ©cresse, Alstom’s renewable power president.