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Gas executive goes for green growth -- IPP switches to all wind

An East Coast independent power producer (IPP) with an eclectic group of energy resources has decided to invest only in wind power projects. Catamount Energy Corporation, an affiliate of Central Vermont Public Service Corp, says it will focus 100% of its energy on wind acquisitions and development.

"I've been on the gas side of the business my whole career," says Catamount's president James Moore. "But it's never been cheaper to go green and among the renewable resources wind has the lowest production cost."

Long bankrupt Kenetech Windpower was the first wind producer to approach him in the mid-1990s while he was president and CEO of American National Power. While at ANP he acquired 4000 MW of gas generation, but he says at that time wind was too costly and unreliable. "Now, equipment reliability is quite good, the costs are down and the environmental drivers are strong," Moore says.

Since 1986, Catamount has acquired renewable, co-generation and gas projects that were already generating or in the late stages of development. It owns the Kavelstorf and Eckolstadt wind farms, totalling 22.7 MW, in northern Germany. That strategy will now change, says Moore. The company plans to gain the expertise to develop wind projects, but will still consider acquisitions if the project is right. It may even sell other generating assets to help pay for wind projects, he says. Moore says the company will focus on projects where the markets are hot, like those in western Europe and the US. Most of its projects are too early in development to name, but Catamount is looking in the 20-200 MW range. Outside the US, it is considering joint ventures or alliances in Britain, Germany and Ireland.

"Environmental drivers for wind are stronger in Europe and investment is more reliable than in the US, where there is frequent debate about rolling over the production tax credit," he says. "In Europe there are revenue subsidies and lower interest rates, so there is a broader universe of investors." Moore expects to announce projects early in 2002.

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