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Help for getting started abroad, Philippines and Australia

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded two $25,000 grants each to companies investigating the feasibility of new wind power turbine installations in countries where US firms have not yet had a presence. The grants, two of five announced on March 5 as part of the CEC's long standing export technology programme, envision quite different approaches to wind power -- in the Philippines and in Australia.

Leading Edge Engineering Inc, a San Diego company, received its grant for projects in the Philippines. It claims that as much as 25 MW of new wind capacity is possible on sites identified by the National Power Corporation on 500 of the smaller islands. The Philippines comprises 7000 islands.

According to the company's T Eugene Northrup, the grant will enable Leading Edge to focus on installing 22-100 kW wind turbines on islands currently not connected to electric grids and typically using diesel generators. "Our initial research shows that wind power would be very competitive, given that power prices range between 12 and 23 cents a kilowatt hour," says Northrup. He claims he could not find an existing turbine that would meet the specific requirements. "The turbines we were looking for had to be small and easy to transport in and out on a pick-up truck," says Northrup.

The project team will consist of Woodside Engineering Associates (with offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Manila) as engineering consultants; San Diego Technology Group (wind turbine design); General Power, LLC (project development); Pamco Machine Works (manufacturer of gear boxes); Norcon Composites (manufacturer of blades); Tower Structures (manufacturer of towers) and CMM Constructors (shipping).

Feasibility studies for potential projects will be completed by next January. Northrup indicates the partners hope to develop wind projects as build-own-operate projects since there were likely no current institutions on most of these islands to transfer title of the projects to. Leading Edge is also exploring prospects for installing medium sized wind turbines in Indonesia and in India, south of Madras.

The second CEC grant goes to the developer of a mini-sonar system involved with wind power since 1977. AeroVironment of Monrovia in California hopes to develop large, grid-connected wind farms in South Australia that will rely upon towers as tall as 60 meters in height. The South Australian government has set a goal of 300 MW of wind power by 2003 to help replace 20% of current generation with new power source alternatives.

"Our remote sensing sonar device becomes cost effective when very large wind turbines are being used," says Thomas Zambrano, manager of the Aerosciences division of the firm. AeroVironment will use the CEC grant to gather site specific wind resource data to help develop projects with large turbines. "There is plenty of land available for big, big projects," said Zambrano. As of yet, the company has not chosen a turbine manufacturer.

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