France – Wind Energy

France – Wind Energy

Fishermen oppose wind farms

The opposition to wind farm construction on fishing grounds continues, with protests taking part in several French ports on the last Saturday in May.

The construction of the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm with 62 wind turbines, each with an 8mW generating capacity, began on the 3rd May this year – while the fishing industry continues to voice its opposition to the project.

The Normandy fishermen held a demonstration both on shore and on the water, while others in the Hauts-de-France region and elsewhere, demonstrated in solidarity with their colleagues in Brittany.

The problem is that the entire area around the wind turbines will be closed to them for three years, claim the fishermen.

Hauts-de-France fishermen protesting in support of their colleagues in Brittany and Normandy / Les pêcheurs des Hauts-de-France manifestent en soutien à leurs collègues de Bretagne et de Normandy

Even though Ailes Marines, which is running the project, is offering financial compensation to fishermen who have been harmed by this ban, they continue to demand the end of the project. The company will also pay wind tax and each year and for twenty years, it will distribute €1.2 million for the National Committee for Maritime Fisheries (CNPMEM), €800,000 for the Brittany Regional Committee (CRPMEM Bretagne) and another €800,000 for the Departmental Committee of Côtes d’Armor (CDPMEM 22).

The 62 wind turbines will cover a surface area of 75 square kilometres located 16 kilometres off the French coast. In 2020, the analysis of technical and environmental conditions was completed, incorporating the installation of three wind measurement systems. Ailes Marines also presented results of environmental studies demonstrating that sound waves generated by drilling are compatible with the normal life cycle of the species of fish studied.

The protest in Saint Brieuc left no doubt about the industry’s position on offshore wind. Image: Sebastien Chanteau / La manifestation de Saint Brieuc n'a laissé aucun doute sur la position du secteur concernant l'éolien offshore

The Saint-Brieuc project had been contested in several appeals in French courts, and cleared its last legal hurdle in December 2020.

But, for Alain Coudray, president of the Côtes-d’Armor fisheries committee, this is not enough, and he has appealed to President Macron to cancel the project.

In a demonstration of anger, on 7th May fishermen took their protests against the construction out to the offshore site. 70 fishing boats surrounded the Aeolus installation vessel in the Bay of Saint-Brieu where Van Oord’s offshore installation vessel began constructing the first pin piles for the project’s 62 jacket foundations for wind turbines.

The Saint-Brieuc windfarm will consist of 62 turbines. Image: van Oord / Le champ éolien de la Baie de Saint-Brieuc sera constitué de 62 turbines

The fishermen are adamant that they are not against wind farms – but they don’t want to see them near their fishing zones.

‘Why won’t government put them on the land?’ ask fishermen of Etaples-sur-Mer, protesting in solidarity with the Breton fishermen.

French fishermen are under no illusions about what the future will bring as windfarms proliferate

‘After Brexit and now, these turbines threaten the economic health of our profession. We are scared as it’s only the first project. Who knows, maybe they will come in our region too? We can’t let it happen.’

‘The impact of offshore wind turbines on biodiversity and fishery resources are now indisputable,’ the Normandy Regional Fisheries Committee states in a formal letter setting out its opposition.

‘What will be the consequences of these wind projects on marine ecosystems? Underwater pollution? Displacement of sediments due to changing sea currents? To date, very few studies have been carried out. The industry regrets that the various projects are not carried out in close consultation,’ stated the Hauts-de-France Regional Committee, in support of its colleagues in Brittany and Normandy

The demonstrations have continued since the beginning of May. Hundreds of fishermen demand the withdrawal of the project due to lack of guarantees on preservation of fishery resources, including the precious scallops from the bay, which they have been managing sustainably for several decades in co-operation with Ifremer.

The windfarm is placed 16km offshore and covers 75 square kilometres. Image: van Oord

€2.4 billion investment

Selected for the off-shore wind farm project in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc in April 2012, Iberdrola and EOLE-RES created Ailes Marines as a simplified joint stock company (SAS), with 70% and 30% respective ownership.

With a view to exploiting the region’s full energy potential, the company designed the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm. It will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in Brittany and one of the first in France to obtain all the necessary government permits for its construction and operation, according to Iberdrola.
The wind farm’s total cost is estimated at €2.4 billion and once it becomes operational (planned for 2023), it will have a total capacity of 496 megawatts (MW), capable of generating enough clean energy for 835,000 people. The 62 wind turbines will cover a surface area of 75km2 located 16km off the French coast.