In France, the “Grenelle II” law (known in English as “The French Green New Deal”) has significantly changed the regulatory approach related to onshore wind turbines. Before this law was passed in July 2010, requirements for onshore wind turbines were fairly straightforward. For the installation of an onshore wind turbine, owners had to obtain a building permit. For wind turbines higher than 50 meters, owners had to complete an impact report (“étude d’impact”) and a public enquiry (“enquête publique”).

Under Grenelle II, the requirements for wind turbines higher than 50 meters have increased. Onshore wind turbines of this size are now also subject to a specific classified installation process (“Installations Classées pour la Protection de l’Environnement” or “ICPE”). This issue was the subject of significant debate in the French Parliament because the ICPE process is usually only applicable to polluting or dangerous activities -- activities typically not associated with wind turbine installation.

Moreover, under the ICPE, the installation process will be longer due to a challenge period. For six months following the date of obtaining the authorization, third parties can file a challenge to the authorization. This timeframe is one year shorter than with the regular ICPE process where third parties have a four year period to file a challenge.

There are additional issues to consider. Because of the ICPE requirement, wind turbine operators will have to provide financial guarantees, the details of which will only be made available in a future regulation. Also, onshore wind turbines higher than 50 meters are not permitted at all if they are closer than 500 meters to inhabited or potentially inhabited areas. Further, the new law redefined new regional wind schemes (“schéma régional éolien”) and local wind development zones (“zones de développement éolien”) in order to identify sites best suited to wind energy.

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