Pilot project | French floating wind prototype pioneers helicopter rescue planning

France’s flagship floating wind unit, the FloatGen installed off its west coast, has pioneered anew, in the sector’s first helicopter evacuation exercise.

The operation, carried out at the SEM-REV test site off Brittany, was a joint project of Cross Etel, Civil Security, SNSM, BW Ideol and Centrale Nantes.

“Risk prevention is essential in the field of marine renewable energies,” said BW Ideol, which developed the ‘damping pool’ platform for the FloatGen unit.

“Practicing evacuations during operations at sea on floating wind turbine demonstrators allows all players to test the rescue chain and prepare for a future sector.”

The exercise was designed around a scenario in which a technician had been injured during maintenance work on the turbine and had to be air-lifted to shore.

“This exercise in real conditions made it possible to assess the specificities of a floating wind turbine during a helicopter winching operation and to prepare for future possible medical evacuations by air.”

FloatGen, which flies a 2MW Vestas turbine, produced almost 13GWh in its first two years off operation. The performance, in “very challenging weather conditions” including maximum wave heights of nearly 11 meters, led BW Ideol to extend its partnership with with Ecole Centrale de Nantes, which operates SEM-REV, to 2024.

Four 25-30MW floating arrays are now in the frame for development off Brittany and in the French Mediterranean — at the Provence Grand Large, Leucate, Gruissan and Groix projects — supported by a generous support tariff of €240/MWh ($278/MWh), and the country is now preparing for the world’s first commercial-scale floating-only wind tender.

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