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Tunisia turns to India for collaboration -- Getting set for 100 MW

Members of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association are to visit Tunisia on the initiative of the country's industry and energy minister, Monsef Ben Abdullah. On a recent trip to India, Abdullah said his country hopes to have 100 MW of wind installed by 2006. "We would like to have Indian companies involved in our renewable energy projects," he told delegates at a recent seminar held by the industry association. "By the year 2010 about 25 % of the country's energy demand is to be covered by renewable energy," said Abdullah. "Grid-connected wind farms and electricity generation by solar energy in particular will be given preference."

Aware that private sector involvement is essential if its goals are to be met, the Tunisian government has cautiously paved the way for a change in its energy policy. State-owned utility Societé Tunisienne d'Electicité et du Gaz (STEG) is now able to negotiate tariffs with private companies which, for the first time, are allowed to produce electricity to sell to STEG. Moreover, the Tunisian renewables agency, Agence Nationale des Energies Renouvelables (ANER), is planning a division specifically for wind energy. The 100 MW of wind is part of its immediate plans with hopes pinned on the World Bank for financial support.

With average wind speeds of more than 7 m/s, Tunisia is estimated to have 500-1000 MW of wind potential. To date most use of wind energy has been mechanical -- for irrigation and desalination -- with just one 10 MW wind farm operating at Sidi Daoud, Cap Bon. It was built by Spanish Made, which clinched a turnkey contract in 1998 for installation of 32, 330 kW turbines. STEG operates the wind farm and is considering expanding it.

STEG is also investigating other areas for development and has identified potential sites at Jebel Sidi Abderrahmene (100 MW), Methine (30 MW) and Kechabta (25 MW).

Rakesh Bakshi of India's Vestas RRB said his company may take up the minister's invitation. "We have gone through a learning phase in India and would like to identify Tunisian companies that could work with us," he said.

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