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A try at community ownership in Spain -- Breaking with tradition

A new company to the Spanish wind scene is trying to introduce the concept of community ownership of wind plant as practised in Denmark and Germany. But while the German roots of Sistemas de Energías Regenerativas SA (SERSA) give it plenty of experience in small scale wind plant ownership, transferring the concept to Spain, where huge wind power stations are the norm, is proving challenging. "It is easier to put up a 5 MW wind farm with a high local participation in the investment than trying the same with a 50 MW plant," admits SERSA's Thomas Weyer.

With development plans for five regions totalling 1483 MW (table) SERSA is keeping its options open between community scale and utility scale wind plant. Not only is the company planning a series of small projects, it is also prepared for any combination of shareholders in its larger projects -- many of which top 30 MW, while some approach 50 MW.

Weyer says SERSA has nothing against corporate investors "or even developing entire projects ourselves." But he insists the main approach is to keep investment in wind plant as local as possible. SERSA's largest strategic plan, for Castile la Mancha, makes a pledge to publish an official share-offer brochure and advertise in regional newspapers to attract 10-30% of share capital locally.

Although SERSA has more development options in Castile la Mancha than in any other region, Weyer considers Galicia to be the most ideal terrain for community ownership. Here, new regulation focuses on distributing small scale wind development to optimise the region's grid (Windpower Monthly, July 2001). SERSA's nine projets for Galicia are for wind stations of 4-11 MW. Similarly, one of the three strategic plans for Aragón involves projects of 4-9 MW, though the other two plans aim to develop 410 MW in projects up to 40 MW in size.

SERSA was founded in 1999 with headquarters in the Valencia region. German renewables group Nevag owns 75% of SERSA, though the executive reigns are in the hands of Weyer, a German investor, who owns the remaining 25%. The various renewables companies controlled by Nevag include wind developer Enersys, wind plant management and finance company Ventus, and turbine manufacturer Frisia Windkraftanlagen Produktion.

The turbine suppliers

SERSA had chosen Frisia to supply all successful projects in Castile la Mancha and Valencia, but the struggling company has since suspended payments. Weyer confirms that SERSA is now looking for alternative suppliers. Indeed. prior to Frisia's crisis, SERSA had already opted for NEG Micon to supply its 410 MW plan in Aragón, while no supplier has yet been fixed for its plans for Galicia and Andalucia. This shopping around for technology represents the company's clearest break with Spanish tradition, where all wind developers holding direct corporate ties with a turbine manufacturer have so far opted for in-house hardware.

"We choose the most suitable technology for each plan," says Weyer. At the same time he admits the choice of NEG Micon in Aragón brings an advantage not purely technological -- NEG Micon has one of the most extensive business plans approved for Aragón and a production facility.

Meanwhile, the bulk of SERSA's projects are wrapped up in umbrella strategic plans still pending approval from the respective regional governments. Nevertheless, Weyer said last month, "We expect a decision on the Valencian wind plan and the green light for strategic wind plans in Castile la Mancha in the first months of 2002."

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