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Italy

Italy

Acquisition of 282MW portfolio bolsters repowering potential

ITALY: Italian infrastructure investor F2i acquired 282MW of operational wind farms in the southern Italian regions of Sicily and Calabria from renewable-energy group Veronagest.

Growing sector… Repowering is likely to gain in importance in mature Italian wind market (pic: BWE/Tim Riediger)
Growing sector… Repowering is likely to gain in importance in mature Italian wind market (pic: BWE/Tim Riediger)

This latest acquisition strengthens F2i's position as one of the country's leading wind-farm operators and potentially opens up new repowering opportunities.

F2i acquired a total of seven Veronagest wind farms through its €1.24 billion second fund. These assets, which came online between 2008 and 2012, add to the roughly 600MW in operating wind farms and 165MW under construction owned by E2i Energie Speciali, the wind-energy joint venture set up in 2014 with EDF's Italian arm Edison, in which F2i owns 70%.

Through a shareholding agreement, Edison and F2i also jointly own about 39% of Italian wind developer and operator Alerion Clean Power, although management control currently remains in the hands of Fri-El Green Power, which owns just below 30%.

F2i's first investment was in Alerion, in which it acquired the 16% stake it still owns directly through the €1.85 billion first fund in 2008. Alerion currently has 256MW in operational Italian wind farms, commissioned from 2004 to 2011.

F2i chief executive Renato Ravanelli has indicated that he sees 1GW as a necessary threshold for achieving operational and financial economies of scale in wind energy. Even without Alerion, F2i is not far from that level.

In solar photovoltaics, F2i is already the Italian market leader through its 50:50 EF Solare Italia joint venture with Italian power group Enel.

Opportunities

Giuseppe Mastropieri, managing partner at advisory firm REA, believes a major motivation for F2i's acquisition of the Veronagest wind farms lies in future opportunities for project expansion or repowering, amid expectations these will be significant drivers of growth in Italy's now relatively mature wind sector.

"The Veronagest sites with new machines could be much more productive," Mastropieri explains. "Utilities are on the hunt for assets like these."

F2i has already begun to go down the repowering route, as partner Edison is one of the stalwarts in Italy's wind sector. In the last Italian wind-energy tender, for 800MW in late 2016, E2i was assigned a 20-year fixed-price tariff for 153MW spread over eight wind farms, including for three projects to be repowered.

So far, F2i has only invested in Italy, in wind, solar and sectors ranging from highways to telecoms. But the firm is planning to begin fundraising shortly for a third fund, expected to total about EUR3 billion, which for the first time will be able to invest in other European markets as well.

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