On 19 March, Alstom inaugurated the world’s largest offshore wind turbin, at Carnet in the Loire-Atlantique. The ceremony was attended by Eric Besson, minister of industry, energy and the digital economy, and Patrick Kron, chairman and CEO of Alstom.

The 6 MW Haliade 150 wind turbine has been developed in response to a call for tenders launched by the French government in July 2011 that aims to install 3 GW of wind turbine power off French shores by 2015. In preparation for its certification, the first Haliade 150 will undergo a series of year-long tests on land at the Carnet site, before a second turbine is placed in the sea off the Belgian coast in autumn 2012. Pre-series production is planned for 2013 with production in series due to start in 2014.

The Carnet site, located near Saint-Nazaire on the shores of the estuary, was chosen for its geological characteristics that are very similar to the submarine environment in which the wind turbines will eventually be installed. The 25 metre jacket was installed on pillars driven more than 30 metres into the ground on which the 75 metre high tower was then gradually mounted. The nacelle rises over the landscape 100 metres above the ground. The wind turbine and its support structure have a total combined weight of 1500 tons. 

Alstom is the exclusive supplier to the consortium led by EDF Energies Nouvelles which includes Dong Energy as well as the developers Nass & Wind and wpd Offshore. The consortium’s agreement with Alstom offers an opportunity to develop a wind turbine based on French technology, built and assembled in France, employing a substantial number of local industrial contractors and benefiting from technological partnerships with various bodies. This project will involve nearly 200 suppliers to the offshore wind turbine sector.

If the consortium’s response to the tender is successful, Alstom plans to establish up to 4 factories to produce components for these offshore wind turbines and for their assembly, in the port areas of Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique) for the nacelles and alternators, and in Cherbourg (Manche) for the blades and towers. These French sites will be the first Alstom sites in the world entirely dedicated to offshore wind power and will permit the creation of 5000 permanent qualified jobs, including 1000 direct jobs.

Alstom has developed its 6 MW wind turbine to a design that aims at simplicity, robustness and efficiency, to improve the competitiveness of offshore wind power. It will function by direct drive and is fitted with a permanent magnet generator, to reduce operating and maintenance costs. It is fitted with Alstom’s Pure Torquer technology which protects the generator by diverting unwanted stresses from the wind safely to the turbine’s tower, thereby optimising performance. It is also intened to offer greater efficiency with its 150 m rotor (the 73.50 m blades are the longest in the world) ensuring an improved load factor.