aWhen the first French offshore wind turbines were pulled into the Atlantic two weeks ago, the entire nation must have been a witness. In the port of Saint-Nazaire, television journalists board a ship that takes them a few hundred meters from the construction site. But with the third rotor blade in place, the demonstration had to be stopped. On this day in April, the storm is too strong to gather at sea.
On the eve of the elections, Emmanuel Macron promised that his country would become a “great ecological nation”. He wants to set up 50 offshore wind farms off the nearly 6,000 kilometer French coast. By 2030, the number should increase to 17 and produce at least ten gigawatts. This is equivalent to the power of ten nuclear reactors.
Paris rested on its laurels for a long time. This makes France a model student when it comes to CO2emissions, but at the bottom of the chapter when it comes to expanding renewable energies. Both are required in the future. The European Union regularly scolds Paris. The country has the longest coastline in Europe, plenty of sunshine in the south – and so far has been well below its potential.
More than three decades after the first offshore wind turbines became operational in Vindeby, Denmark, the French are celebrating their unfinished tower off Saint-Nazaire as a historic event. It sounds like a joke, but of the seven French offshore wind farms commissioned in 2011, not one has yet been commissioned. Some say: Fortunately. Resistance is great among the population, especially among fishermen.
During the election campaign, the question developed into a political issue. Right-wing populists have announced that they will stop all projects and dismantle existing parks. She once said that wind turbines are like immigrants, “everyone wants them, but not on their doorsteps.” She is not alone in this position.
You don’t want to see them at sea either. The strongest headwind is in Erquy, a small Breton fishing village in Cotes d’Amour, 3900 inhabitants in winter, 20,000 in summer, located in one of the most beautiful bays in Brittany, Baie de Saint-Brieuc. There, Spanish energy group Iberdrola is building a 100-square-kilometre park with 62 wind turbines, just 16 kilometers from the coast.
It is said that Albert Oderzo, a painter of Asterix volumes, found a model for his dear village in Erki and was inspired by the beauty and perhaps also the character of the people. Erquy still looks like a picture book. The water is emerald green, and the sandstone slopes are pink. Several prominent politicians have traveled to Erquy in recent months, and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stopped at Erquy and called the project a “disaster”. In January, Marine Le Pen came and spoke of a “crime”.
Alan Codray is one of the leaders of the rebellion. The head of the Cotes d’Amore fishing association sits behind his desk and twists the skull rings on his fingers. He says: “I am fighting a war, wind turbines are destroying fisheries. We are not a friendly environment from Paris, I am defending the fishermen.”
Once they set sail with their cutters and tried to board the drill ship “Ulus”. They lit smoke candles and the pictures looked as if a naval battle had taken place. His colleague Grégory Métayer is hoping for a “Mother Nature” because two drill heads have already smashed onto the hard diorite on the sea floor of the bay.
Mark Sevnic, a fourth-generation fisherman, stands at the counter of Tabac’s “Le Coursive” bar right on Port Erquy, where he dropped his first Ricard schnapps early in the morning. “We will have the most expensive electricity in the world in Erquy,” Sevenec says and laughs. But a guy who wears a light blue baseball cap doesn’t really find it funny. The “Wind Factory,” as the marine park calls it, sells crabs and small fish. The spawning grounds were destroyed by the falling mud.
Sevenec mainly hunts scallops, the bay here has the second largest stock in France. In order to protect the stock, he is only allowed to put in his cutters twice a week, six months a year. “Erquy is the precious village of Asterix, and our potion is Ricard,” concludes Sevenec, proudly sharing Le Pen’s birthday. She was even aboard the Attila during the election campaign.
Half an hour’s drive from Erquy, Stéphane Alain Riou is sitting in a meeting room in Saint-Brieuc, a picture of a beach hangs on the wall, and some wind turbines can be seen on the sea horizon, as small as matchstick heads. out of the water.
He works for Ailes Marines, a subsidiary of energy giant Iberdrola, and he doesn’t have an easy task: Rio, a PhD in marine biology, is supposed to make the project attractive to Woods. He is proud of the park because it is “environmentally exemplary” and “technologically challenging.” Brittany produces hardly any electricity. It is estimated that the wind farm will supply more than 800,000 households.
However, at an exorbitant price. The state-owned electricity company EDF will buy a megawatt-hour for 155 euros, three times the average French price. Ailes Marines justifies this with “the characteristics of the site, one of the most complex in the world”. Within 20 years of operation, Iberdrola will generate revenue of 4.7 billion, according to calculations by the online research portal “Mediapart”. With about 2.3 billion construction costs, that’s a safe business of 2.4 billion on the backs of taxpayers. Mediapart calls this plunder: “They allocate the sea.”
Riou stresses that techniques have now been developed to penetrate solid diorite. Ten out of 62 institutions already exist. Several biological studies were also carried out, including the first in the world, to find out whether the scallops were disturbed by the noise of digging, which was entrusted to the “Papa of the scallop”: “The results are excellent, there is no mortality, no effect on reproduction.”
Henry Lappie, Mayor of Erki, has sued the Isles Marines five times. He lost five times. Now he faces a €10,000 fine and six months in prison if he obstructs the construction site again, he says with a rebellious smile. The socialist was of retirement age in favor of the project at first. That would bring his municipality more than a million euros in compensation each year, he says sarcastically, the “grand prize”.
Wind turbines seemed to him “far away”. But then he did some research and read about how marine animals and plants, and above all seabirds, are affected. “Erquy is a lab. If all goes well here, they will put wind farms out to sea everywhere,” says Labe.
Environmental activists agree with him. Wind farm operators have applied for exemptions for 59 species whose survival cannot be guaranteed. All species are approved, although some are listed as endangered.
“Absolute insane,” says Lamia El Samalali, president of the NGO Sea Shepard, “They sacrifice biodiversity.” Everything was outlined on the drawing board, as is often the case in France. The activist says the “wind factory” is a “pretext”, a “crime against the environment in the name of the environment”.
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