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From Ireland to the Andes and Australia -- Mainstreaming renewables

Mainstream Renewable Power, a new venture founded by Eddie O'Connor, former CEO and founder of Irish Airtricity, has revealed ambitious global expansion plans as it announces a proposed EUR 200 million equity fund raising. The company plans to build and operate a range of renewable projects across Europe, the United States, South America and Australia, with 50 MW in the ground by the end of 2009 and a total 200 MW by 2010.

Earlier this year, O'Connor founded Mainstream a mere six days after leaving Airtricity with an estimated EUR 50 million share of the proceeds of its acquisition by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). Airtricity is a retailer of green power and an international wind project developer. O'Connor has already invested EUR 30 million in Mainstream alongside around EUR 10 million from colleagues in the new company. They will now be seeking an additional EUR 200 million from September this year, mostly from private investors.

Mainstream says it will develop wind, solar-thermal and ocean current plants by partnering with governments, utilities, other developers and investors in both established and emerging markets. "But to begin with we will stick with wind which is the most commercial at the moment," says O'Connor.

Since the company was set up in Ireland in February it has established three overseas offices in the UK, Australia and the US in addition to its Dublin headquarters and has plans for further offices in Chile, Egypt and Scotland. Mainstream says it is developing both onshore and offshore projects. They include offshore projects in the UK and Germany, which will be the foundation of O'Connor's long held ambition for a European offshore "supergrid." In the US the focus will be mainly on onshore wind, but at the end of May the company submitted a bid for a 500 MW wind plant off the coast of Rhode Island. In Chile, meanwhile, it has signed heads of agreement with Andes Energy to develop a pipeline of 260 MW. The company says it has identified a number of potential partners in its other key markets and expects further significant deals to be concluded over the summer.

Mainstream stresses its "strong relationship" with major wind turbine suppliers and boasts firm commitments for machines to be delivered in 2009, 2010 and 2011. It has also invested EUR 1 million in Dutch offshore turbine designer 2-B to create a low-cost wind turbine for offshore deployment. O'Connor's 35-strong team includes Fintan Whelan and Torben Andersen, who followed him from Airtricity. The board includes Fintan Drury, a well known Irish business entrepreneur turned football agent, as chairman, and Sir Roy Gardiner, former chief executive of UK energy giant Centrica.

O'Connor says the company has achieved a tremendous amount in its first four months. "I don't believe there's another company out there that can act as quick as Mainstream Renewable Power," he says. "We now look forward to raising the capital to assist us in delivering on our future objectives, to developing large-scale operations that are based on gigawatts, not megawatts."

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