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Wind turbines in the Mediterranean: the State’s decision expected before the end of March

Between July and October, a major public debate launched consultation on the project for two commercial floating wind farms in the Mediterranean. With a power of 750 MW each, these parks could be installed in 2030 over a large maritime area between Perpignan and Fos-sur-Mer. The project is part of the multi-annual energy program of the State, which has set itself the objective of reaching 40% renewable sources in its energy mix. ” This option of floating wind turbines still raises a lot of questions but not brutal opposition. Many participants are even ready to go even further provided they have all the information on the possible impacts “, explains Etienne Ballan, the president of the special commission of the public debate of the EOS project. The report of more than three months of discussions was presented on Thursday January 6 in Montpellier with a main lesson: “ The recurring subject is the calendar. Many citizens are asking the State to wait for feedback from the pilot floating wind turbines which are still not in service. “says Etienne Ballan.

Etienne Balan (2nd from the right) led the press conference on the report of the public debate on wind farms in the Mediterranean (Credit DR)

The State must explain itself on the acceleration of the calendar

This new commercial farm project is the continuation of pilot sites such as Provence Grand Large in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône launched in 2015 by Ségolène Royal, then François Hollande’s Minister of Ecology. ” Originally, they were to be operational in 2019 but there was a significant delay due to various technical and administrative problems “, says Matthieu Laurent, the project manager for floating wind farms in the Mediterranean at the Directorate General for Energy and Climate (DGEC).

In the end, commissioning is not expected before 2023. In a planning document from 2015, the prefect of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region writes in black and white: ” The monitoring of pilot farms and their impacts, both on the marine environment and ecosystems as well as on the pre-existing socio-economic activities at these farms, remains the prerequisite for commercial deployment. Indeed, a negative follow-up of these pre-commercial pilot farms of floating wind turbines could not allow an expansion of the parks on an industrial scale. “.

However, under the impetus of economic players and a political will to accelerate the energy transition, the State is overriding this commitment and launching the commercial phase without waiting for the pilot farms. ” This is one of the big sticking points. Why now ? The State must provide an answer on the choice of the calendar “Warns Chantal Jouanno, the president of the national commission for public debate (CNDP). Nicolas Clausset, the deputy director of the electrical system and renewable energies at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, provides the beginning of an answer: “ There is a climatic emergency but also an economic industrial one “, he advances. However, the State reserves its final decision for the written response that it must send to the CNDP before March 31.

Nicolas Clausset, deputy director of the electrical system and renewable energies at the Ministry of Ecological Transition

Two sites to be determined among seven candidate areas

Three months before the presidential elections, the State must decide whether or not to launch this project, which is far from unanimous. At the end of the public debate, the CNDP listed thirty questions and proposals from the public to which the public authorities must respond. In addition to the request for a postponement of the project after the commissioning of the pilot farms, the citizens are asking for more details on the impacts on fauna, flora, fishing… “ This is a crucial moment because you will give a strong signal on how you heard the questions of the public “says Etienne Ballan to the attention of the representatives of the State.

The other crucial element expected is also the choice of sites selected to accommodate the wind turbines. For now, seven areas have been identified (see map below) including one off Fos-sur-Mer. A priori, two locations must be designated but Nicolas Clausset is anxious to prolong the suspense: “ It could be three or just one. Nothing is completely settled “, he adds.

The seven candidate areas for the installation of future floating wind farms (Credit CNDP)

We will therefore have to wait a few more weeks before knowing the final decision of the State. ” It should even arrive quickly well before March 31 “, promises Nicolas Clausset. Once these elements have been received, the CNDP must issue an opinion on the completeness of the response and will then appoint two guarantors of project monitoring to ensure that the public is properly informed thereafter. If the State confirms its schedule, a first call for expressions of interest will be published this year to pre-select the groups of companies that will build and operate the farms. The winners will be designated at the end of 2023 and a public inquiry will be launched in four to five years before the expected commissioning in 2030.

Useful links :

> To follow the public report of the public debate on January 11
> Floating wind turbines in the Mediterranean: “We must not hang around” according to Pompili
> Floating wind: “A 10 billion challenge for the local economy” (Paul de la Guerivière, Ideol)
> Offshore wind power: the Regions and industrialists make a counter-proposal

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