The project started more than a decade ago. It was in 2011 when Iberdrola obtained the first of the administrative permits to build the largest offshore wind farm in France, off the coast of Brittany. After years of negotiations with a French bureaucracy that was new to the management of this technology, tough negotiations with the local population to overcome their resistance to having huge windmills in front of their beaches and the general halt of the pandemic, the construction of the park is already underway and the objective of producing electricity by the end of 2023 and will be operational for at least 25 years is maintained.
The result will be a wind farm with 62 wind turbines more than 200 meters high, some 16 kilometers off the Breton coast and spread over a marine area of 75 square kilometers, almost at the end of the English Channel and very close to where British waters start. Iberdrola will invest 2,400 million euros and when the three-year construction period is over, the Saint Brieuc offshore wind farm will have an installed capacity of 496 megawatts (MW) and will be able to produce 1,820 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year, enough to cover the energy demand of some 835,000 people.
The huge structures that are already being installed in the park have a Spanish stamp. They come from factories in Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country, and are arriving in Brittany after long barge journeys before being planted at sea with precision engineering work requiring drilling and crane equipment designed and built ad hoc for this project.
The piles that the company is planting in the sea floor are built by Windar at its factory in Avilés (Asturias), the large metal support structures (jackets) are assembled at the Navantia plant in Fene (A Coruña) in consortium with Windar itself, and the wind turbine towers are built by theHaizea Wind group in Bilbao on behalf of Siemens Gamesa, awarded the contract to manufacture the wind turbines. Siemens Gamesa itself will also be responsible for the maintenance of the wind farm and has commissioned a new ship for these services, which has been built by the Balenciaga shipyard in Zumaia (Guipúzcoa).
Last June, the 62 support platforms, huge metallic structures 70 meters high, 25 meters wide and weighing 1,150 tons, started to be transferred from Navantia's plant in Fene. They are transported four by four -at a rate of 4,600 tons each trip- on barges which are towed on journeys of more than 1,500 kilometers to Brittany. Twenty-four complete supports have already been installed, in a process that requires a week's work to plant the three pilots and fit each of the jackets with huge crane ships. The Basque group Haizea (whose name means "wind" in Basque) began transporting the first wind turbine towers to be installed on the jackets last week.
Since the start of the initiative, the project has undergone several changes following the negotiation process with the local population to overcome criticism and misgivings. After more than 1,400 meetings with interest groups, the wind farm was reduced from 100 to 62 wind turbines, moved away from the coast from 10 to 16 kilometers, and the distance between one windmill and another was increased from 1 to 1.3 kilometers in order to gain the support of the powerful fishing sector in the area. Fishing boats will still be able to fish in the waters inside the park thanks to the smaller size of the farm, the distance of the wind turbines and the fact that the electricity transmission cables will eventually be buried in the sea floor.
The race for offshore wind
Iberdrola wants to accelerate its bid to lead the global offshore wind race, which has become a strategic axis of its growth. The electricity company has three offshore wind farms already in operation with a capacity of almost 1,300 MW in the United Kingdom and Germany, another 3,000 MW under construction and 4,000 MW secured, in addition to another large portfolio of projects under development.
The group's goal is to have 12,000 MW in operation by 2030 with investments of some 30 billion, for which it has projects underway or in the pipeline in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ireland, Sweden, as well as in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and South Korea.
Iberdrola will start up the Sant Brieuc wind farm in France next year and is preparing to boost its growth in the French business with the French government's new round of offshore power auctions. As confirmed by Emmanuel Rollin, Iberdrola's director for the French market, the company has already been pre-qualified in the bidding process for three new offshore wind farms, one of 1,000 MW in Normandy, another of 250 MW in Brittany and a 500 MW project in the Mediterranean. The French government is preparing three additional auctions to continue deployment.