France’s energy strategy was re-oriented towards nuclear power in the late 1960s which meant the Rance power station, originally intended to be a forerunner for a considerably more powerful series of tidal lagoons, is still the sole tidal energy plant operating in France today. However the vast untapped potential of France’s tidal resources, its legacy of tidal engineering expertise, a firmer commitment to reducing its reliance on nuclear energy combined with the slow rate of development of alternative sources of renewable power open new opportunities for the development of tidal lagoons in France.
Outside of the United Kingdom, France represents the most significant opportunity for the development of tidal lagoons in Europe. Within its exclusive maritime domain (the second largest in the world) sections of the French coast with shallow waters experience tidal ranges as high as the United Kingdom.
Two regions in France hold great promise for the development of tidal lagoons with a combination of high tidal ranges and shallow waters. The first of these regions is the western coast of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy between Granville and Carteret with mean spring tides of 9.5 to 11 metres and shallow waters extending several kilometres out from the shoreline. The second region is the Picardy coastline between Le Tréport and Le Touquet Paris-Plage with mean spring tides of 8 to 8.5 metres and similar bathymetry to the West Cotentin Coast.
Preliminary modelling undertaken by Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) for these two regions indicate a potential capacity of up to 15GW based on three possible lagoon sites on the West Cotentin Peninsula and two on the Picardy Coast.
Given the scale of the potential tidal resource that could be harnessed in these two regions, the favourable policy environment for renewable energy development, the difficulties France will likely face in achieving its target for renewable energy from other sources and the capacity challenge for replacing nuclear energy, tidal lagoons could represent a significant opportunity for France to achieve its policy goals.
TLP has been actively exploring tidal lagoon development opportunities in France since the beginning of 2015. This work has included over 80 meetings with key stakeholders including national public bodies for energy and the environment and their regional representations, regional local government representatives, local mayors along the West Cotentin and Picardy Coasts, research and scientific bodies, environmental lobby groups and industry bodies and key players in the energy sector.
These meetings have not only raised the awareness of the tidal lagoon opportunity for France but have also returned valuable local intelligence that has helped shape our thinking around the most likely sites for tidal lagoon deployments and the key parameters to take into account for the more detailed design work to follow.
The key arguments for tidal lagoons emerging from these meetings are related to the role that lagoons could play in protecting coastal communities from erosion, flooding and storm surges as well as tourism, leisure and socio-economic development.
TLP has undertaken analysis of the legal and administrative framework for developing tidal lagoons in France and has compiled data on the principal environmental factors relevant to the target areas and the nature of the environmental protection measures in place in those areas. This analysis has identified the constraints and opportunities that will feed into an initial environment state model and has given indications as to the priority areas for which studies should be initiated.
On the basis of this analysis and the high-level lagoon design modelling work, we will look to take forward proposals initially for two lagoons – one on the West Cotentin Peninsula and the other on the Picardy Coast. This will allow us to better test the integration of a lagoon into each of these environments while retaining a high level of flexibility in terms of its ultimate location. It will also enable analysis of baseload pairing potential to take advantage of the differing times of the tides between the West Cotentin Peninsula and the Picardy Coast.