The Paimpol-Bréhat Tidal Turbine Farm: A World First Made In France
May 08, 2015
In late 2015, the Paimpol-Bréhat site in Brittany, France will be the setting for a world first: offshore tidal energy production! The first tidal farm, developed by French power utility EDF, will operate 16 kilometers out at sea and 35 meters deep. Two turbines will harness the natural strength of the tides to produce electricity. An electrical conversion system will allow the green energy to be transported as continuous electrical current to an onshore substation close to the Arcouest Peninsula in Ploubazlanec to finally join the electricity grid.
Within a few months of the EDF Paimpol-Bréhat tidal turbine farm’s deployment at sea, the partners in this ambitious project will finalize facilities on dry land. OpenHydro (DCNS subsidiary) is responsible for the construction of the two turbines while GE Power Conversion (GEPC) is developing the onshore substation and the submerged converter. The latter consists of steel housing, 9 meters long, 5 wide and 4 high, which will enclose all the electrotechnical equipment required for electrical conversion. “Being a nice yellow color, we’ve nicknamed it the Yellow Submarine”, explained Frédéric Navarro, GEPC Project Manager.
Some fifteen individuals are working passionately on this project at the GEPC Belfort site, engineers but also support staff in purchasing, logistics etc. The whole team is deeply committed to the success of the project and enthusiastically follows each stage of its progress. “When a purchaser saw a photo of the housing she cried: it looks like a ‘minion’ from that animated movie!” joked Frédéric Navarro. The adventure is in its finalization phase; today the final tests must be completed before inserting all the technical elements into the housing; then welding it and submerging it for 5 years of autonomous operation at the bottom of the ocean. The result of several years of calculations, modelling, successive validation and testing in the marine environment, the Converteam (joining GEPC in 2011) having begun work on this project in 2008. With EDF, a long-term partner of GE, and DCNS, the Paimpol farm is a “Made in France” success story.
“Paimpol-Bréhat is the first offshore tidal turbine project developed on a pre-industrial level”, specified Frédéric Navarro. “While its wattage is still modest, with two 0.5 MW turbines, the full-scale installation will be closely watched by the entire renewable energy sector. Marine energy is developing significantly, especially in Great Britain (where the Swansea Bay project was recently won by GE Power Conversion), Canada, Chile, and China…”
This new source of clean energy enables the contribution of tidal power in a diversified energy mix, and even rendering island regions autonomous in terms of energy, to be envisaged. Furthermore, it has a strong potential for development. “The advantage of tidal turbines is that, contrary to wind turbines, the energy is predictable thanks to sound knowledge of tidal cycles”, added Frédéric Navarro. France, a pioneer in the sector with the Rance tidal power plant almost 50 years ago, continues development with the Paimpol-Bréhat project and should not stop there. The Raz-Blanchard project, in particular, could gather the same development team with even higher production targets; indeed, in this passage near the Cotentin Peninsula, a well-known spot for sailors, the most powerful currents in Europe surge.
After the sun, wind and water, we are on the brink of being able to harness the energy of the moon as it contributes to generating tides!