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Major project plans for Spanish waters -- An industryx newcomer

A relatively new and little known Spanish wind developer is plunging into the offshore sector with even bigger plans than first reported. It is aiming to build 816 MW off the coastline of the Mediterranean provinces of Catalonia and Valencia. The company hopes to seal permits over the next two years and complete construction by 2007.

Capital Energy, a relatively new and little known Spanish wind developer, is plunging into the offshore sector with even bigger plans than first reported. It is aiming to build 816 MW off the coastline of the Mediterranean provinces of Catalonia and Valencia. The company's Eduardo Sarti says Capital Energy hopes to seal permits over the next two years and complete construction by 2007.

It is certainly an ambitious plan. "When we started with the project people said we were mad," says Sarti. "But now onshore sites are largely taken up and new developers can either choose between the complex sites remaining or go offshore, an increasingly attractive option."

The company is confident its project, at an estimated cost of around EUR 960 million, will be approved for the site, an underwater "platform" in shallow waters around the River Ebro delta. The plan is to install 272 turbines four to five kilometres from land, where depths are around 25 metres. The turbines will be sited in two groups. One will stretch intermittently in a 14 kilometre line formation off the north of Valencia. After a gap of around ten kilometres, the line will continue for a further 15 kilometres off Catalonia's southern coastline.

The project's planned location is, however, just five kilometres away from a national park and bird reserve and has already been the subject of vehement environmental protest. Sarti stresses the company has earmarked the least sensitive locations. It has also sought guidance from the environment ministry on drawing up an environmental impact assessment, work still ongoing. The next step is to gain approval for its siting application for a wind monitoring mast at sea. Final project approval will depend on a full year's onsite wind assessment as proof of project viability.

The newcomer to the wind power sector is something of a mystery, with Sarti reluctant to reveal too many details about its background: "We are a private independent company," is all he says, adding that the management base has "wide experience in the wind sector."

The company behind Capital Energy is believed to be Spanish construction giant ACS. In 2002, the company was registered under the name of Jesus Martin Buezas, son-in-law of ACS boss, Florentino Perez -- incidentally also the president of Real Madrid Football Club. ACS is already one of Spain's leading wind developers through its renewables affiliate, Energías y Recursos Ambientales. Moreover, it recently took over construction competitor, Dragados, which has a strong wind project development wing, Urbaenergía, and experience in offshore construction.

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