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France declares its tidal energy potential

Published:  24 January, 2014

François Piquet, West Normandy Marine Energy president and Ports of Normandy chief executive Jean Michel Sevin discuss tidal power developments in the region.

Normandy is France’s foremost tidal power hub. West Normandy Marine Energy and the Cherbourg port owner Ports of Normandy Authority (Ports Normands Associés or PNA) both say they have long recognised the value of tidal power and claim their efforts to develop the industry are beginning to be realised.

The heads of both organisations commented ahead of the West Normandy Marine Energy Conference, at the International Tidal Energy Summit, on why this part of France should be a major focus for tidal power at this current time.

Q: What makes Normandy an important location for tidal power?

Jean Michel Sevin: "Cherbourg possesses a major asset: its immediate proximity to the Raz Blanchard or Race of Alderney, which represents half of France’s tidal energy potential.

"The port of Cherbourg has several other advantages, such as offering extra land possibilities and firm ground ideal for heavy loads and for building specific installations.

"It is accessible 24/7, with no locks or air space constraints, 13m of water guaranteed all year round and a favourable business environment, accessible from land, with existing industrial fabric and companies with experience of major construction projects."

Q: What are the objectives of the tidal work underway in Normandy?

François Piquet: "Our goal is to decrease the price of the electricity produced by marine renewable energy and make it competitive with other energy sources. This is a niche market and we cannot all be competitors if we want to be successful.

"Currently we are carrying out a diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of those actors that are capable and willing to invest in this area in France and Normandy. The industry is helping us do this diagnosis and can propose solutions for cooperation.

"The work involves industrial players from many territories, such as Alstom and Tidal Generation Limited in Bristol, and DCNS and OpenHydro in Ireland, for example, as well as the European Marine Energy Centre research and development site in Scotland."

Q: What are the next steps taking place in terms of technology development?

François Piquet: "We are working gradually to validate the quality of the prototypes and check the capabilities of companies developing industrial-scale farms.

"Collectively, we also have to solve some technological problems to do with topics such as environmental impact, wake effects and the displacement of sediments."

Q: What specific actions are you taking to support tidal power at Cherbourg?

Jean Michel Sevin: "In order to strengthen the position of the port of Cherbourg, PNA has begun preparing for tidal energy operations by building a new quay with a load capacity of 15t/m2 and an additional 39-hectare platform.

"With a coordinated and cohesive construction project that includes a terminal with unique Channel-facing durability, as well as almost 100 hectares of dedicated real estate and improved marine facilities, the port of Cherbourg is ready for an expansion in marine renewable energy."

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