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France to run first offshore wind farms from 2015

Three consortiums of mainly French groups are bidding to build the country’s first offshore wind parks in a massive project to reduce its reliance on nuclear power and establish it as a leading player in the booming market for wind energy.

GDF Suez, EDF unit EDF Energies Nouvelles and Spain’s Iberdrola are vying for a stake in five wind parks with a joint capacity of 3GW and 600 turbines. The first phase, located of the Normandy and Brittany coasts, has a total contract value of EUR10bn (US$12.8bn)

The contracts will be a driving force in developing French clout and expertise in the sector. At present, France’s contribution to offshore wind power is limited to Areva Wind’s 5MW M5000 turbines being used in the North Sea. French engineering company Alstom hopes to launch a rival 6MW turbine - know as the Haliade - in 2014. Alstom is part of the group led by EDF Energies Nouvelles, which is betting on the Haliade turbine, which with a diameter of 153m is the world’s largest offshore wind turbine.

The tender for the first phase was launched last July and in April, the tender for the second phase will be opened, just before the French presidential elections. The second phase would see capacity double to 6GW by 2020 and double total investment to EUR20bn. But the eurozone crisis could enforce a different timing.

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