French energy giant GDF Suez on Monday said its bid to build hundreds of wind turbines off France's Atlantic coast and in the English Channel would create 6,000 local jobs.
"This represents 6,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase," GDF Suez CEO Gerard Mestrallet told a press conference.
The company is leading a consortium of bidders including Areva and Vinci for the contract to install 500 to 600 offshore turbines capable of producing up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2015.
Two other consortiums, led by French energy company EDF and Spain's Iberdrola, are in the running for the tender, with the successful bid to be announced in the next few weeks.
The GDF consortium wants to create a construction base in the port at Le Havre, from where it will organize the building of the offshore turbine fields near Courseulles-sur-mer, Fecamp and Treport.
Some critics have slammed the plan for damaging views in the area, including at beaches in Normandy where Allied troops landed on D-Day and areas famed for inspiring Impressionist
The base in Le Havre would include two Areva plants, one to build turbine blades and another for engine housings. A third factory, owned by Vinci, would build some of the foundations for the turbines.
Areva CEO Luc Oursel said the plants eventually could be used for exports as well, in particular to Britain.
"This is not just about answering a call for tenders, but also about creating an industrial arm in a sector that is growing strongly," he said.
But Oursel said that potential could be wasted if his consortium does not win the contract.
"There will be no industrial base in France if we do not obtain at least two fields," he said.
France, which produces 75% of its electricity through nuclear energy, is investing 20 billion euros ($25 billion) in wind power, with plans to build 1,200 offshore turbines capable of producing 6,000 megawatts by 2020.
The government has vowed to increase the share of renewable resources, including wind and solar, to 23% of national production by 2020.
France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, operates 58 atomic reactors.
But the country's reliance on nuclear power has been increasingly called into question since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which prompted neighboring Germany to announce plans to shut all of its reactors by the end of 2022.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012