French Wind Growth Continuing

By Paul Gipe

October 30, 2008

Despite rumors to the contrary in the Anglophone world, French wind energy development is continuing. In fact growth is accelerating according to data published by France Énergie Éolienne, the French Wind Energy Association. The data, Statistiques actualisées du parc éolien français, is available for download in an xcel table.

Growth has been accelerating since 1996 when only 1 MW was installed. In 2007, 700 MW were installed and last year 900 MW began operation. The wind association estimates that by mid 2008 as much as 1,200 MW had been installed.

France has long lagged its neighbors Germany and Spain in wind energy. Thus 2008 is a banner year for the French with new installations breaking the magic 1,000 MW per year threshold. Total installed capacity by year end is expected to exceed 3,600 MW.

French wind development has surpassed its longtime cross-channel rival, Great Britain, since 2006. By year end France may have 1,000 MW more wind energy capacity in operation than that in Britain despite its better wind resource.

The accelerating growth in France is attributed to its innovative feed-in tariffs that are differentiated by wind resource intensity. French policy emphasized broad distribution of wind energy development to avoid concentrating development in only the windiest regions. This appears to have worked as French wind development can now be found in most areas of France.

Interestingly, the average size of the wind project in France is about 20 MW. This contrasts with the huge projects typical of North America.