GDF Suez is studying the feasibility of two projects at the sites of France’s most powerful tidal currents: Raz Blanchard in Lower Normandy and the Passage du Fromveur off the Finistère coast in Brittany. These two sites alone contain 80% of the energy potential from marine current exploitation in France, which has the second largest marine current power potential after the United Kingdom.
Through these two projects, GDF Suez wants to be able to install and operate tidal power production units at these two sites from 2015, and become a leading player in renewable marine energy, the company reveals.
As France’s strongest tidal current, Raz Blanchard (Lower Normandy) alone represents 50% of the national tidal power potential. The objective of GDF Suez at Raz Blanchard is to obtain approvals to install a pilot plant of 3 to 6 turbines representing power of 3 to 12 MW from 2015. GDF Suez and its subsidiary Eole Generation have already selected the HyTide turbine designed by the manufacturer Voith Hydro to equip all or part of this future pilot plant. The plant is an indispensable step in confirming the technical and economic viability of the technologies and in eventually constructing an industrial plant of around 100 turbines at this site.
Meanwhile, to the south of the island of Ouessant off the Finistère coast, the Passage du Fromveur is the site of France’s second strongest tidal current. GDF Suez wants to develop a tidal power plant here by 2016. An agreement was signed with Eole Generation and Sabella – a company specializing in tidal power engineering – allowing Eole Generation access to Sabella’s research on the Fromveur site and the data on its D10 marine turbine prototype.
Ambitions in renewable marine energies
Since 2009, GDF Suez has been committed to studying development opportunities in marine current power. The Group’s Research and Innovation Division, Eole Generation and Tractebel Engineering have been working on the study for these projects with the long term aim of making GDF Suez a key player in tidal power in France. This ambition is part of the approach of GDF Suez to developing renewable marine energies, illustrated in particular by the marine current projects in the United Kingdom and in French Polynesia (Projet Meygen by International Power and the Electricité De Tahiti project in the Tuamotu archipelago) and in wave energy conversion projects in Brazil (Tractebel Energia) and Portugal (Wavebob).
Within the scope of these studies, Eole Generation has been appointed by the Group to develop the marine current power sites in France, ensuring the acceptability of the project and working with the fishermen and other stakeholders. GDF Suez and Eole Generation are therefore going to mobilize all parties involved in order to promote and to participate in the emergence of an industrial marine current energy sector in France that will benefit the economy and local employment (construction of sub-assemblies, assembly, installation, maintenance, etc.).
With nearly 10,000 MW of installed power capacity in France, of which nearly 50% is in renewable energies, GDF Suez has made renewables one of its major areas of development. The Group is a leader in onshore wind power in France with more than 1,000 MW in operation and is the second largest hydropower producer with 3,800 MW. It is also involved in the development of emerging technologies such asconcentrated thermodynamic solar power and microalgae.
GDF Suez is not the first company to spot the potential of Raz Blanchard, where tidal speeds of more than six metres-per-second create a 4-6GW potential resource (50% of France's total potential hydrokinetic power capacity and the strongest current in Europe. In 2010, DCNS carried out a feasibility study for a 20-MW pilot plant for Raz Blanchard on the Channel. The first OpenHydro turbines are expected to be installed in 2014/2015.