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After years of nuclear power, France is betting on offshore wind power

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This image, from September 2022, shows French President Emmanuel Macron talking to workers on board a boat during a visit to the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm.

Stéphane Mahé | AFP | Getty Images

A facility described as ‘France’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project’ is fully operational, a multinational EDF said this week.

This news represents a significant step forward for the country’s offshore wind sector, with other projects expected to come online in the coming years.

In a statement on Wednesday, EDF said the 480-megawatt Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm would help “support the French state’s energy transition objectives, which include targets to produce 32% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030”. EDF’s majority shareholder is the French state.

Located in the waters off the southwest coast of France, the Saint-Nazaire project comprises 80 turbines. Its first electricity was produced in June 2022.

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

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While the Saint-Nazaire project represents a significant boost for France’s nascent offshore wind sector, the country has been something of a nuclear powerhouse for decades.

According to the World Nuclear Association, France is home to 56 working reactors. “France gets about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy,” he adds.

In the field of wind energy, the country has an established onshore sector. Its offshore industry, by contrast, is tiny, with a cumulative capacity of just 2 MW in 2021, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.

This is set to change in the years to come. “Offshore installations are finally set to take off from 2022, and we expect 3.3 GW of offshore wind installations by 2026,” says WindEurope’s report on wind energy in Europe, published in February 2022.

In a statement, EDF Renewables CEO Bruno Bensasson said he was proud to commission what he called “France’s first industrial offshore wind farm”.

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

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