"For ecological reasons, our minibar is switched off. If you wish to use it, please contact reception". This unusual warning welcomes tourists staying in the seaside resort of Ploubazlanec in Brittany, France. More signs warn that energy-saving concerns are at an all-time high in the area, with much of the street lighting being switched off shortly after stores and restaurants close.
The reason? French Brittany did not have to wait for the impact of the war in Ukraine to be threatened by blackouts. This French region on the border of the English Channel has been living under the sword of Damocles since years ago when it championed opposition to nuclear energy and was left without any of the 19 power plants on French territory. As a result, the region is only 14% self-sufficient in energy and when there are peaks in demand, the risk of a lack of supply hangs over Breton businesses and households.
Iberdrola is developing the largest wind farm in France, with an investment of 2.4 billion euros.
Its big bet to advance in this energy self-sufficiency, beyond maximizing savings, is to promote clean energies, among which offshore wind energy stands out, whose turbines produce twice as much energy as those installed on land. Three of the 50 offshore wind farms that France has set as a target to be built by 2050 to achieve a capacity of 40 GW, almost 20% of the country's total consumption, are under development in its territorial waters.
The most advanced off the coast of Brittany is also the largest in France. It is a mega-project led by the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, located 16 kilometers off the coast of the town of Saint-Brieuc. A huge engineering work that, when completed, will extend over a marine area of 75 square kilometers, which will house 62 turbines of 8 megawatts (MW) each and a height of 200 meters. It will have a total installed capacity of 496 MW and at its completion, expected in 2023, it will offer an output of 1,820 gigawatt hours and will cover the energy demand of 835,000 people, 8% of Brittany's demand, according to data handled by Iberdrola. "The project has been quite a challenge at the bureaucratic and technological level. In addition to the nine years of bidding, the peculiarity of the sea floor in this area has made it necessary to use complicated specific tools for this project," explains Emmanuel Rollin, head of offshore wind at Iberdrola in France.
Iberdrola's wind farm in Saint-Brieuc, which will have 62 wind turbines, will occupy about 70 square kilometers.
He was in charge of starting the project after its tender in 2012. After getting around bureaucratic problems, overcoming initial reluctance with local fishermen, which meant moving away from the coast and relocating the installation area, and building cranes, drills and even a specific boat to support the construction work, the project has reached cruising speed. "Twenty-four of the 62 structures on which the wind turbines will be installed have been installed and we are going faster and faster with the rest. Also completed is the 25-kilometer cable connection to the onshore power substation from which RET, the French grid operator, will be able to distribute the power from next year," explains Rafael Vara, project manager. In 2023, Saint-Brieuc will be Iberdrola's fourth wind farm in operation, after two in Great Britain and Wikinger in Germany, with a total of 1,300 MW. A wealth of experience that strengthens Iberdrola's CV for the other three tenders it is bidding for in France.
In addition to the French projects, Iberdrola's commitment to offshore wind energy is materialized in its 3,000 MW under construction and another 4,000 MW secured, in addition to an extensive portfolio of projects under development around the world.