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Electricity distribution company Manweb in the north west of England is hoping to emerge from the coming round of Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) contracts as a significant wind plant developer. The utility, which supplies electricity to north Wales and Merseyside, has unveiled plans to build 95 wind turbines on the Welsh island of Anglesey. The 35 MW wind farm would occupy land north and south of Llyn Alaw reservoir.

The company's Geraint Jewson expected to have made a planning application before the end of July for the project. He stresses that Manweb has been engaged on an extensive consultation exercise with community representatives over the last two years which culminated recently in a series of local exhibitions. He denies this exercise was prompted by seeing the strength of opposition to some other British wind farms, saying the utility's presence throughout the region makes keeping the public informed a priority. "Manweb is in the community anyway and we firmly believe the community should be made fully aware of our plans," he says.

Manweb's proposals for Anglesey follow hard on the heels of its application to install 83 turbines with an output of around 30 MW at Mynydd Yr Hendre near Carno, Powys, Wales. Also in Wales, the company has been keeping district and community councillors near Pentrefoelas in the Denbigh Moors of Clwyd informed of its plans to build a wind farm there of up to 100 machines. Of the three Manweb proposals, this has the potential to attract most controversy since it would be within a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). According to Jewson, the company is putting forward a further project in Scotland for assistance under the NFFO. In addition it already has shares in two operational wind farms in England.

The attraction of wind energy for Manweb and many of the other 11 electricity distributors in England and Wales currently engaged in developing wind farms is that it provides the companies with a means to expand their non-regulated activities. Since electricity privatisation, the utilities have seen increasing competition for their regulated distribution business from electricity generators who are now able to supply larger consumers direct. The main generators too -- National Power and PowerGen -- have seen their market share of generation reduced considerably with the advent of increased competition from independent generators -- mainly with gas-fired plant. These companies, together with Scottish Power -- one of the two vertically integrated electricity companies north of the border -- already have significant stakes in existing wind farms.

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