Catholic church among investors -- Ethical fund kicks off

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Construction is about to get underway in Greece and Poland of the first two wind projects

launched by a major new ethical fund. The Noble III Fund, also known as the Veritas Fund, has a target capital of EUR 160 million and was launched in November by Dublin finance company Matrix Asset Management. The fund, which took three years of planning, is a means for investors to put their money into exclusively renewable energy projects.

Noble III is being marketed by Matrix from its branches in Dublin, London and Athens, as well as by Private Banks Schweiz (PBS) in Zurich and London and the Opera dello Spirito Santo, an organisation owned by the Roman Catholic Church. Investors so far range from private individuals to large pension funds looking for ethical outlets.

"By early January, 20% of the target sum had been raised," says Kurt Kleta, a member of the fund board and also head of foreign projects at P&T Technology, a wind development company based in Hamburg, Germany. P&T has been targeted as the key supplier for the first two turnkey wind stations. Kleta adds that the EUR 160 million may be used as capital to lever financing from further afield, with the World Bank showing interest.

In Poland last month work started on installing five Vestas 850 kW turbines at Stramnica on the Baltic Sea coast at a cost of EUR 5 million. In Greece, a 29.75 MW project, also of Vestas 850 kW machines, is to go ahead in the spring. Noble III has examined ten wind projects already, according to Kleta.

"Further projects are being developed in Italy, Spain, Germany, USA, Brazil, Bulgaria and Albania," he continues. "Although P&T is not exclusive wind developer for the fund, it will be general contractor for these projects."

The projects in Brazil, Bulgaria and Albania underline the ethical nature of the fund. "At seven and half to eight per cent, the economic return will not be as high as the twelve per cent or more expected elsewhere. But the wind projects will bring electricity to regions that don't have it and which wouldn't have it, were it not for the fund," says Kleta.

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