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On 21 July, Naval Energies, a subsidiary of French naval shipbuilder Naval Group (ex-DCNS), held a first stone laying ceremony marking the start of work on its new tidal turbine plant at Cherbourg on France’s north-west coast. This is the world’s first plant designed specifically to assemble tidal turbines. The building measures 150m by 37m, for a covered area of 5500 sq.m, with a ceiling height of 20m and two heavy-lift cranes, each rated at 90t.




Operational in 2018

The site is part of a large area being developed by the Cherbourg port authority (Ports Normands Associés, or PNA) for the marine renewable energy industry and others requiring access to wharves handling heavy-lift and oversize items. The plant is scheduled to be commissioned in March 2018. Initially, it will assemble and maintain tidal turbines for the Normandie Hydro project at Raz Blanchard led by EDF Énergies Nouvelles. During his speech, Thierry Kalanquin, CEO of Naval Energies and OpenHydro, said: “The plant is located in Cherbourg for several very good reasons. First, its proximity to Raz Blanchard, where the first turbines will be set up to exploit one of the world’s strongest tidal streams. Second, direct access to heavy-lift port facilities and ample grid power. Third, the PNA’s commitment to tidal power.”


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Assembly of a tidal turbine for an earlier pilot project (© Naval Energies)


Sized to produce 25 turbines per year

In line with the company’s overall tidal power strategy, Naval Energies designed the first module of the new plant to produce 25 turbines/year with a typical assembly time of 12 to 18 months. “The plant concept was developed by OpenHydro. If future contracts for commercial turbine farms meet our expectations, we will build a second module giving us a production capacity of 50 turbines/year. That’s our aim. We’ve already set aside the land for the second module.”

“It’s a wager on the future”

Over the last few years Naval Energies has built four 2-MW machines as the first steps towards its long-term aim of world leadership in tidal turbines. Two of these machines, for the Paimpol-Bréhat site, were assembled at DCNS’s Brest shipyard and the other two, for a site in the Bay of Fundy, at a shipyard in Canada. “From now on we will use the one dedicated plant for the optimised assembly of all our turbines. The plant will enable us to test and refine our production process while improving turbine quality and reliability.” The ultimate aim is, of course, to test Naval Energies’ economic and industrial model. “Having completed several pilot projects, we are now paving the way for the industrial phase of our plan, namely the production of significant numbers of large machines for commercial turbine farms. The entire plan is a wager on the future based on our hard-won experience,” says CEO Thierry Kalanquin.

Serious money

Over the past few years, the company has undertaken development work and experiments representing an investment of over €150 million by Naval Group (ex-DCNS) before Naval Energies was set up as a separate entity, or around €250m, if one includes the purchase of Irish startup OpenHydro. The plant construction project was funded by a real estate development entity bringing together various levels of local government, with the Normandy regional authority contributing €450,000. On completion, this entity will lease the premises to Naval Energies.

Pilot turbine farms for starters

The plant will initially employ 30 to 40 people in addition to providing work for various subcontractors. The first orders are for turbines for pilot farms. In addition to bidding for the seven-turbine Raz Blanchard farm, Naval Energies will be bidding for a number of international projects. One calls for two more turbines for the Bay of Fundy; another for one turbine for a site in Japan. Towards the end of the decade, the company expects to bid for the first commercial turbine farms. Calls for tenders for farms in Normandy and Brittany are expected to be issued later this year with a view to commissioning the first machines four years later.

Additional plants?

The Cherbourg plant will produce turbines primarily for sites in Brittany, Normandy and the Channel Islands. It should also be economical to deliver turbines for pilot projects overseas. As the international market progresses from pilot projects to commercial turbine farms, Naval Energies envisages setting up local plants based on the same concept. “Depending on where the turbines are needed, we hope to build other plants based on the concept under development at Cherbourg.”

Lead designer, assembler and integrator

It is important to point out that the Cherbourg plant is a final assembly facility that receives and integrates components, equipment and subsystems produced elsewhere. While some components and subsystems will be produced by Naval Group departments, the remainder will be supplied by subcontractors in France and other countries.


Original by Vincent Groizeleau, translated and adapted by Steve Dyson


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Energies marines
Naval Group