Categories: World

How the first offshore wind farm works, off Saint-Nazaire

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The long construction site is almost complete. Off the Loire-Atlantique, near Saint-Nazaire, operation of the offshore wind farm has begun. This is the first time in France that the energy of the wind off the coast has made it possible to produce electricity. The equivalent of the annual consumption of 700,000 people is provided by 80 yellow and white wind turbines installed about fifteen kilometers from the shore.

“There are 12 cables that connect the wind turbines to each other in clusters of 6 or 7, which then arrive at the substation. There, the current is transformed to be able to be transported, sent towards the earth”, explains the director of the wind farm at sea of ​​Saint-Nazaire, Olivier de La Laurencie.

A kind of “control tower” on the ground

When sailing towards the park, the 12 clusters of wind turbines and the huge 75-meter-long blades stretch to the horizon, with the electrical substation in the center, which looks like a gigantic gray cube on stilts. This substation “is a large transformer which will transform the electricity which arrives at 33,000 volts, into 225,000 volts”, continues Olivier de La Laurencie, indicating that the electricity is then “shipped to the national network where it will be injected into that tension.

The wind turbines, which should produce the equivalent of 20% of the annual electricity consumption of the Loire-Atlantique department, are “spaced 1,000 meters apart, in one direction or the other”, specifies Olivier de La Laurencie.

No one is permanently stationed in this vast park which covers 78 km2, but everything is monitored remotely from a maintenance base in the port of La Turballe. At the heart of this base, a maritime coordination room with multiple screens shows the position of ships moving at the foot of the wind turbines. “It’s a bit like the site’s control tower,” summarizes Fabrice Le Tual, operations and maintenance manager, adding that around a hundred people will work on the maintenance of the park for the 25 years during which it will be in operation.

In full service at the end of the year

The fleet, operated by EDF, will be fully commissioned by the end of the year. It has a capacity of 480 megawatts (MW) and was inaugurated by Emmanuel Macron on September 22. “In France, we are lucky to have the second potential in offshore wind power in Europe, after the United Kingdom”, rejoices Cédric Le Bousse, Director of Marine Renewable Energies France at EDF Renewables.

After those of Saint-Nazaire, the wind turbines of the offshore park of Fécamp will be installed “next summer” and those of the park of Courseulles-sur-Mer (Calvados) “from the year 2024”, specifies Cédric Le Bousse .

The construction at sea of ​​the Saint-Nazaire wind farm took place in 2021 and 2022, with first the installation of the foundations and electrical cables under water, then the wind turbines were transported on site, from spring 2022 until ‘at the installation of the last on September 5th.

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