The French AREVA goes bust in offshore wind energy

It took 10 years for AREVA, the French nuclear giant, to abandon ship and sell its gigantic investments in offshore wind energy. After having sunk billions of euros in windturbines at sea, with machines of a capacity of more than 6 MWh, the French group sells its division to the Spanish GAMESA, which has just become property of SIEMENS… for a miser 60 million EUR. One could speak of a price of one symbolic euro!

La très carnassière Anne Lauvergeon (PS) à l'époque où elle était tout sourire pour Françaois Mitterand, qui le lui a bien rendu...
The very agressive Anne Lauvergeon (PS) who was so smily withe François Mitterrand…

The one who started it all, was Anne Lauvergeon, the advisor (and probably more) of an ageing president François Mitterand. This socialist creature, parachuted at the helm of AREVA, had thought it brilliant to start pseudo-renewable activities in the nuclear group. It was already very fashionable in 2004.

The stupid decisions of COP21 and COP22 did not impose yet totally unrealistic objectives in the “renewable sources of energy” and pressure for the end of nuclear energy, but AREVA was going to invest in concentration solar power plants (very doubtful profitability without subsidies), wind energy (a total error), bio-energies (partly to be defended, except for biofuels) and the stocking of energy (good idea).

At the time, the Ecologists had made an outcry. For them, the investment of AREVA in renewables was a “diversion to give itself good conscience”.

Badly managed, obliged to revise regularly the concept of its new atomic power plants such as the Finnish EPR of Olkiluoto under the pressure of the hatred of nuclear energy by the Greens, AREVA had reached a yearly loss of EUR 550 million in 2014, for a turnover of EUR 5.5 billion. The bulk of the deficit was due to the offshore wind energy investments. Therefore the sale now, a real disaster for the company…

It is worth looking into the details of off-shore wind energy. Why has AREVA made such a mistake, just like the Germans and the Danes? Simply because it is terribly complicated to install very powerful wind turbines at sea. A rotor weighs 200 tons, the masts weigh more than 1,000 tons. A specialized ship costs some EUR 100,000 per day. The windturbines at sea cost twice as much as windturbines inland. The figures provided by the French Regulation of the energy administration speak for themselves. The average cost of offshore wind energy is EUR 200 per MWh produced, while the “normal” price of electricity is about EUR 40 per MWh. It is not profitable without massive subsidies that ruin the industrial consumers and the citizens. Pure stupidity.

Eoliennes Gamesa - Areva au large de la France: gare au vieillissement accéléré! Message à l'acquéreur Siemens...
Eoliennes Gamesa – Areva

Let’s add to it that a movement of 1 degree of a windturbine (200 m height), if it is for example installed on a sandbank, such as the Belgian windturbines in the North sea, and everything falls to pieces at the first windblow! Another problem is the linking to the network:; the Germans have been incapable of starting the largest windfarm built in the Baltic sea; it has disjuncted and burnt off on the day of the launch…

An engineer in the branch says: “there is the same difference between onland and offshore wind turbines, as between aviation and space applications”. On the sites at sea, the parts of the rotor and the wings age prematurely, rust faster with the wind storms at sea. The repairs can not be done for days and weeks on end because of bad weather, etc.

To avoid corrosion due to salt, AREVA had found nothing better than to make the windturbines turn empty… by installing giant diesel motors in them. It is the ultimate stupidity for an energy which is supposedly decarbonated, but which needs anyway gas or coal power plants to replace the wind turbines in the absence of wind.

Today, the “escape to the future” is for Siemens. The giant Munich firms owns now 60% of the offshore market. Beware of the ageing of the wind turbines! We advise not to invest one eurocent in Siemens at the Stock exchange. Siemens is at “the forefront of new technologies” but could go bust with off-shore wind energy. In economic terms, the escape to the future is not a good idea.

L.R.