After decades as a nuclear powerhouse, France is playing its part in offshore wind

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This image, from September 2022, shows French President Emmanuel Macron speaking to workers aboard a boat while visiting the Saint-Nazaire Offshore Wind Farm.

Stephane Mahe | TBEN | Getty Images

A facility described as “France’s first commercial offshore wind project” is fully operational, a multinational utility company EDF said this week.

The news represents a major step forward for the country’s offshore wind sector, with more projects coming online in the coming years.

In a statement Wednesday, EDF said the 480-megawatt Saint-Nazaire Offshore Wind Farm would help “support the French state’s energy transition goals, including targets to source 32% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.” EDF’s majority shareholder is the French State.

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Located in the waters off the southwest coast of France, the Saint-Nazaire project consists of 80 turbines. The first electricity was generated in June 2022.

Looking ahead, EDF said the wind farm would “provide the equivalent of the consumption of 700,000 people with electricity each year.”

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While the Saint-Nazaire project is a major bull’s-eye for France’s burgeoning offshore wind energy sector, the country has been something of a powerhouse when it comes to nuclear energy for decades.

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According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 56 working reactors in France. “France gets about 70% of its electricity from nuclear power,” he adds.

In terms of wind energy, the country has an established onshore sector. The offshore industry, on the other hand, is miniscule, with a cumulative capacity of just 2 MW in 2021, according to figures from industry organization WindEurope.

This will change in the coming years. “Offshore installations will finally start starting in 2022, and we expect 3.3 GW of offshore wind installations from now to 2026,” said WindEurope’s Wind Energy in Europe report, published in February 2022.

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In a statement, EDF Renewables CEO Bruno Bensasson proudly welcomed the commissioning of what he called “France’s first industrial offshore wind farm”.

“Over the past 10 years, this project has contributed to the construction of the offshore wind energy industry in France and has mobilized a significant number of jobs during construction and now in the operation phase,” he later added.

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