Fourteen companies-ten of them foreign-have expressed interest in building and operating a hybrid wind-diesel project planned for Chile's Robinson Crusoe Island, says Teresa Soffia of national energy commission CNE. The commission is debating exactly how to proceed, she adds. By the end of this month it hopes to decide whether to award a contract to build the system and then run the project itself, or whether to opt for awarding a build and operate contract which could run from ten to 30 years. The latter option is preferable, Soffia says, but CNE is cautious. "Since the system is so special, we don't want to award a contract and then have it abandoned," Soffia explains. "We are analysing how to do it so someone will operate it for more time and not just leave the installations to someone else." The investment is "extremely variable," depending on the size and the technology necessary to install the system, she adds. CNE hopes the project will get underway in mid-2005. Some 550 people live on Robinson Crusoe Island, which is part of the Juan Fernandez archipelago 600 kilometres off the coast of Chile. Current electricity production is based entirely on imported diesel oil-the wind-diesel project is part of the Chilean government's rural electrification program, which is backed by the United Nations Development Program.
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