On a commercial level, the project also spearheads the move into the Arab and African wind markets by Egyptian electrical engineering and cable group El Sewedy, through subsidiary El Sewedy for Wind Energy Generation (SWEG).
Twenty-one of the 37 1.65MW machines from Spanish turbine manufacturer MTorres Olvega Industries (MTOI), which is 90% owned by SWEG, are on site, SWEG chief executive Faisal Eissa told Windpower Monthly. "We are preparing the final stages to start civil engineering work," he added. All 61MW are now expected to be operational next year.
The Al-Fatayeh project, located in the coastal town of Darnah, near Benghazi and the Egyptian border, is among a scarce few large industrial engineering, procurement and ponstruct (EPC) projects across Libya to move forward, said Eissa.
MTOI had already shipped the first eight machines from Spain in 2010, after landing the turbine supply contract from the Gaddafi regime. At the same time, El Sewedy increased its stake in MTOI from 30% to 90%, taking control from Spanish industry technology group MTorres, now a minority partner. MTOI's 120MW Olvega factory in northern Spain produces 1.65MW direct-drive turbines.
The onset of the Arab Spring uprisings in Libya in 2011 stalled the Al-Fatayeh project. But the turbines were kept in storage in Darnah and were undamaged, said Eissa, denying rumours that the machines had been illegally seized during the uprisings.
Eissa also dismissed criticism that security risks in Libya and other Arab Spring countries are too high. He admitted that "there are security issues", but pointed out the project has powerful backing and protection.
The Libyan government itself is developing Al-Fatayeh through its renewables agency, the Renewable Energy Authority of Libya (REAOL), and is giving the project priority, said Eissa. The wind farm's EUR 84 million EPC contract is shared with another government body, the Public Electrical Works Company (PEWCO), which received a further 13 MTOI turbines in early 2012.
PEWCO chose the Dernah site to kick-start wind development not just for its average wind speeds of 9.3 m/s, but also because of its port facilities and high-capacity power lines. The project was part of the Gaddafi government's plan to install around 1.5GW of wind by 2020. Renewal of those plans now hinges largely on the outcome at Al-Fatayeh.
Eissa points to fellow Arab Spring neighbour Egypt as a guiding light. El Sewedy's home country, already the region's leading wind market with 550MW online before the uprisings, has also revived its commitment to wind. In March, the government made a private developer request for proposals for up to 250MW. In April, it also launched a call for 600MW in the Gabal El Zeit area. El-Sewedy is making offer to both calls.
Meanwhile, due to the wind market freeze in MTOI's Spanish home market, Eissa said it is also focussing on the target markets of Ghana and Kenya in Africa, Jordan in the Middle East and Italy, Bulgaria and Turkey in Europe. In Kenya, SWEG-MTOI has already landed the EPC contract for developer Blue Sea's 42MW Isiolo development this year and is also developing a 50-75MW project in Ghana.