Europe's first experimental site for evaluating small turbines has been established near Narbonne on France's Mediterranean coast. The aim is to provide reliable data on the performance of machines under 10 kW in a "real-life" situation. Up to four turbines at a time are tested for a maximum of six months to assess their efficiency, the quality of the electricity produced and their noise levels. Visitors are asked to comment on the visual impact. Of the first four units installed, two belong to French firms Afelec and Travere Aérogénérateurs and two were manufactured by Spain's Bornay. The data will be made available to private individuals and small businesses wishing to generate their own electricity, for example for isolated houses not connected to the grid. Financing of the test site comes from national energy agency ADEME and state-owned utility EDF, with smaller contributions from the regional and local authorities. It will run for a year initially, with an option to extend. In a separate initiative, Narbonne municipal authorities are to showcase renewables in a new 18-hectare leisure park. Various innovative and artistic installations, including vertical axis wind turbines, will meet the facility's entire lighting and heating needs. Work is due to start late 2005.
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