BKW tweaks plans for Italian market

SWITZERLAND: Swiss energy group BKW FMB Energy in December announced plans to acquire four operational Italian wind farms with combined capacity of 82MW from local developer Fortore Energia as part of a wider international expansion strategy.

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Following the transaction - for which financial details were not released - BKW will own 100% of the San Chirico, Spina, Monticelli and Franciosa wind farms in Apulia, with a combined capacity of 82MW and annual electricity production of just over 160GWh.

Under the same accord, Fortore Energia will buy out BZW's 33% stake in Fortore Wind, the Italian wind energy venture created by the two companies in 2009.

BKW's tweaked plans for the Italian market do not mark a significant strategy change, says company spokesperson Antonio Sommavilla. "Fortore made us an offer and we took advantage of the opportunity. We will continue to have relations and to be partners."

The acquisition will bring BKW closer to its goal of 750MW of installed wind capacity. At the end of 2010, the company had a total wind capacity of about 150MW from wind farms in Italy, Germany and Switzerland. The change in the ownership structure of BKW's Italian wind farms assets should bring that figure to about 200MW. One project that should be completed this year is the construction of a 25MW wind farm project in Volturino, Apulia, which was acquired in 2009.

In Germany, BKW has developed and is scouting out projects both on its own and through 50:50 partnerships with German developer Juwi and Swiss utility Energie Wasser Bern. BKW and Juwi are aiming to develop installed capacity of 200MW in Germany by 2015 and commissioned a first 8MW wind farm in Landkern in January 2010. BKW and Energie Wasser Bern are instead targeting a wind portfolio of 100MW and acquired a 14.5MW wind farm in Sendenhorst last year.

Andreas Escher, an analyst with Vontobel Research in Zurich, notes that BKW's international expansion strategy is largely obligatory, amid growing opposition in Switzerland to renewable energy projects. Indeed, BKW said in January that it is reducing its target for Swiss renewable energy production by 40%.

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