Recently appointed offshore wind project director at EDF Renouvelables, Clothilde Nicolas has now taken up her position in Nantes, right at the heart of the ecosystem that has seen the growth of France’s first offshore wind farm. Interview.
What are your new responsibilities?
Clotilde Nicolas: My main role will be to develop the socio-economic benefits of the Saint-Nazaire wind farm for local communities. This means working to secure locally based contracts, facilitating a joined-up approach across business and industry, and supporting job creation, training and social integration. To achieve this, we work closely with local stakeholders including the development agency Solutions & Co, the cluster Neopolia, the local authority CARENE and industry partners.
Construction of the wind farm began in 2019. How is it coming along?
C.N.: The various components have now been manufactured: the foundations in the Netherlands, the inter-turbine cables near Paris and in Eastern France, and their cast iron shells in Brittany. The electrical substation was built in Saint-Nazaire by Chantiers de l’Atlantique and is being equipped by GE Grid Solutions. Nacelle assembly is taking place at the purpose-built Montoir-de-Bretagne plant.
Building work for the new construction base began last year in Saint-Nazaire and for the La Turballe maintenance base. Electricity transmission company RTE has installed the two export cables from the substation to Prinquiau.
At sea, the four support foundations for the electric substation were installed at the end of April. And the month of June is seeing the first wind turbine tower foundations being put in place.
The construction works at sea will be completed in four stages. This will allow the maritime zone to remain open to sea users as long as possible. In fact, two navigation channels of 1.5 nautical miles will run through the farm – a world first – so that sea users such as fisherman can continue to go about their business.
This summer, we will install the electric substation and the first set of inter-turbine cables. After the winter period, we will roll out the second set of foundations and cables, followed by all the offshore turbines. Commissioning is expected by the end of 2022.
What are the benefits for the Pays de la Loire region, now and in the future?
Development of the wind farm brings many benefits to local communities across the region, and the project has already driven key investment. GE has built its plant at Montoir-de-Bretagne, which may well serve other international projects in the future. EDF Renouvelables and its partners have placed orders with Chantiers de l’Atlantique for three electric substations for the Saint-Nazaire array, but also for the Fécamp and Courseulles-sur-Mer arrays. These investments will help foster a sustainable future for the industry, providing opportunities in France, Europe and beyond.
A further example is the LD Tide consortium (1) signing a crew transfer vessel (CTV) contract with GE and the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm. Three CTVs will be designed and built by shipbuilders OCEA to transfer operators during the wind farm construction stage and technicians during its operational stage.
Around a hundred regional businesses and subcontractors have been able to contribute to this project. By the end of 2020, over 2,000 jobs in France have been behind by this development, with more than half in the Pays de la Loire region. In addition and thanks to the considerable efforts by our industry partners, some 30,000 hours of social integration have been undertaken.
*Joint venture formed by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and British company Tridal Transit