The State and EDF-Energies Nouvelles (a subsidiary of the national energy utility) want to plant 180 wind turbines in the sea between Cap d’Agde and Gruissan off the Languedoc-Roussillon coast and the locals are up in arms.
Why you may ask is France – world leader in nuclear energy – so keen on hugely expensive controversial wind turbines off a coast whose tourist and fishing industries could be wrecked as a result?
That is what Languedoc-Roussillon residents opposed to it also want to know. Herault Tribune, the Languedoc regional paper, is rallying readers and providing a platform for groups opposing the offshore windfarm scheme.
The answer in part, lies in EU commitments to the politically correct green pressure groups which have hijacked environmental concerns about carbon emissions and the greenhouse effects since Kyoto – and turned what was once called “global warming” into a meaningless catch-all slogan: “climate change”.
Here in summary is the EU argument behind its 2001 directive on renewable energy (European directive 2001/77/CE of 27 September 2001) which in turn is the basis for French haste.
“The promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES) is a high European Union (EU) priority for several reasons, including the security and diversification of energy supply, environmental protection and social and economic cohesion. The Directive follows up the 1997 White Paper on renewable energy sources which set a target of 12% of gross inland energy consumption from renewables for the EU-15 by 2010, of which electricity would represent 22.1%. With the 2004 enlargement, the EU’s overall objective became 21%. The Directive also constitutes an essential part of the package of measures needed to comply with the commitments made by the EU under the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
France plans to produce 21% of its electricity consumption or 106 TWh, from renewable energy in 2010 to comply with the directive. Wind power represents 75% of the 35 TWh additional production that this requires over and above its 2006 performance.
Devoted to nuclear
Yet this is the country which the BBC recently called Europe’s most enthusiastic devotee of nuclear power. France has 59 active nuclear reactors pumping out 419 billion kiloWatt hours (kWh)) of cheap energy yet its power industry has produced a meglomanic scheme to spend 10 billion euros over 10 years on an intermittent source of energy from controversial wind turbines off one of its most popualr coasts. In 2006, the government announced the start of the design process for a prototype fourth-generation, sodium-cooled fast reactor, with the aim of having the technology ready for industrial deployment and export after 2035-40. So with so much invested in reliable base power generation capacity from nuclear – deployment of the most modern technology planned for 2035 – why is France bothering with unreliable wind energy that many claim is only viable thanks to state imposed subsidies and incentives. (see among others: John Etherington,The Wind Farm Scam
The issue has a wider dimension than just a decision by central authorities in France. The wind energy industry relies on the discredited demands of the UN-led climate change lobby. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has successfully lobbied member states and EU governments in particular to accept that the only alternatives to carbon emitting power sources are wind and solar based. This, the argument of major business interests cloaked in suitable leftist rhetoric, means places such as the UK, for instance, now face the dire prospect of power blackouts before the decade is out, because of wildly unrealistic green agendas steered by deluded climate change warriors under the cover of warped data from so-called climate change “scientists”.
UK Blackouts by 2017
Here is columnist Ben Brogan writing in the Daily Telegraph of London on 24 Feb 2010:“…the Government admitted that by 2017, demand will at times exceed supply, and that we could expect the first power outages since the rationing of the 1970s. That would mean up to 16 million households sitting in the dark for an hour. Yet the industry complains – with justification – that Labour (in office at the time of this column) has done nothing. It dragged its feet on nuclear, has done nothing to deliver on clean coal technology, and has set targets for renewables that insiders say privately are pure fantasy.” .
Languedoc coastal municipalities object
The Herault Tribune campaign notes that a test installation of 34 wind turbines 125 feet high (the height of a 40-50 storey building and visible miles out to sea), extending over 11 km2 and located just 5 km off the coast, failed in 2005. The populations of six affected coastal municipalities in the Languedoc – Agde, Vias, Portiragnes, Valras, Vendres and Serignan have all rejected the EDF project backed mainly by Compagnie du Vent and Shell (oil).
Even though for political reasons, local authorities largely failed to take up the cudgels formally, interest groups and concerned citizens, backed by some local councillors in a personal capacity, did so instead and a wide public debate has ensued. Herault Tribune says backers and opponents of the scheme have now widely aired their views and the outcome has been a resounding no from thousands who signed petitions!
In cabinet May 5 2010, Ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo tabled a report on the offshore wind development programme aimed at generating 6,000 MW by 2020. The challenge for France is a double one he said: “First to meet commitments of the environment pledge and energy/climate change package, and second to secure a leading place in the future offshore energy industry. Six hundred wind turbines with a total capacity of 3,000 MW will therefore be located off the French coast particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon.”
Cost – 10 billion euros
The cost will be 10 billion euros over 10 years and the aim is to meet 15% of all electricity demand through wind power by 2020: 5% offshore and 10% of onshore. Like all renewable energy, such electricity will be more expensive, even if the tender insists candidates will be selected on the basis of the resale price they propose to EDF for the power. Francis Lempérière, a renewable energy expert said the additional cost incurred is expected to be 50 euros a year per consumer by 2020.
Areas regarded as suitable for the turbines have been identified off Port-la Nouvelle and Cap d’Agde the Department of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development announced recently. The project involves installing 180 wind turbines covering 150-180 km2 of the marine coastal area stretching from Marseillan to Gruissan. These comprise three arrays of 60 turbines each. The first array is planned for the coast from Cap d’Agde to Valras. The other two are not yet precisely located but in all likelihood, they will adjoin the initial array. What the newspaper called “sea monsters” will ressemble a 160-metre hill jutting out of the sea and be equivalent to the height of a 50-storey building. Each turbine produces 3.33 MW of wind, or a total of about 200 MW each.
The Local regional Inter-municipal Committee, now opposing the offshore wind turbines, has affiliated with FED (Fédération Environnement Durable) which in turn brings together more than 730 associations in France. In turn these are part of a wider umbrella organisation: European Platform Against Windfarms(EPAW) which includes 419 associations in 21 countries. Why are all these groups opposed to industrial wind generation on land and at sea?
Among reasons are:
• It is an intermittent source of energy requiring an immediate associated soruce of residual energy and the only plants flexible enough to start at the snap of a finger, are gas, oil and coal, all heavy on CO2 emissions. Another alternative is hydroelectric dams but there is no place for these near the affected coastline ?
• It will lead to the destruction of years of effort invested in building a high quality image for the Languedoc coastal area and this includes nature reserves, Natura 2000 areas, Natural Zones of Ecological, Fauna and Flora, the aquaculture industry, breeding pans for fish resources, and other underwater protection zones.
• The installation of 180 offshore turbines requires significant digging into layers of sandy seabed to build underwater foundations and this will extend for a minimum of 150 km2. At the same time this area will be closed to fishermen and pleasure and other boats. The works may degrade the sealed underwater Astian formation and thus disrupt ocean currents, accentuating the problem of seabed scouring and coastal erosion. Has any environmental impact study taken these points into account the paper asks?
• Work on building the electrical grid to connect the turbines that connect the platform to land and infrastructure to join up the landing stations involves 6-10 years of work on the coastal zone. The submarine cables are expensive and fragile. The smallest maintenance need may require shipping in of substantial resources posing the risk of nuisance and vast expenditure. Have these aspects been assessed, the paper asks?
• the proposals represent “a real business opportunity” for major industrial firms seeking new markets and diversification says Andre Antolini, president of the RES (Renewable Energy Trades Union) who notes that only multinationals – among the worst polluters on the planet – have the resources to invest hundreds of millions of euros.
• Wind energy is only viable because the state requires EDF to purchase feed-in wind power at twice its cost ( Decree No. 410 10 May 2001 and order of November 17, 2008). The irony is that consumers pay this EDF differential through a monthly surcharge on their accounts under the heading: CSPE (Contribution to the Public supply of Electricity).
Sustainable development, says the newspaper, is supposed to protect the environment. Wind industry operations by EDF Energies Nouvelles should enable them to cut consumer electricity bills but in reality the exact opposite will happen, the paper concludes.
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