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Spanish wind industry sees a strategic opportunity

Neighbouring countries with Mediterranean coastlines are a particular focus of the Spanish wind industry's expansion beyond its own borders. The Mediterranean basin is "strategic," says utility Iberdrola, operator of more wind power around the world than any other company. Easy logistics and supply chains and the strong cultural, political and economic links with southern European countries lie behind the natural affiliation Spaniards feel for Mediterranean markets.

The traditional cultural and economic ties linking Spain with its neighbours give the country's wind power equipment suppliers a natural export market right on its doorstep

Spanish wind industry sees a strategic opportunity

Neighbouring countries with Mediterranean coastlines are a particular focus of the Spanish wind industry's expansion beyond its own borders. The Mediterranean basin is "strategic," says utility Iberdrola, operator of more wind power around the world than any other company. Easy logistics and supply chains and the strong cultural, political and economic links with southern European countries, including the fast growing markets of Italy and France as well as the north African countries belonging to the Arab Maghreb Union, lie behind the natural affiliation Spaniards feel for Mediterranean markets. Back in the middle ages, Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Malta were all part of the Maghreb region, which today most commonly refers to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

More surprising than the interest of Spanish wind developers in these countries, perhaps, is their activity in Greece (above), with its modest track record in the wind sector and weaker traditional bonds. Acciona Energy has just announced it will invest EUR 500 million in Greek wind development over the next five years, citing the country's "very ambitious objectives."

For its part, Iberdrola is steadily upping its stake in Greece's dominant wind plant developer and operator, Rokas, as part of a bid to secure 100% of the company. If it succeeds (it has more than 70% so far and needs 90% to force a sale), Iberdrola Renovables' will own 217 MW of wind plant in Greece, all but 20 MW acquired through Rokas. The Spanish utility's renewables division lays claim to 123 MW in Greece today.

It is Italy, however, among Spain's Mediterranean neighbours that has attracted most attention. Leading the Spanish bridgehead is utility Endesa, now owned by Italy's Enel and Spain's Acciona. It operates 152 MW of the close to 3000 MW of Italian wind capacity, with a further 196 MW building. Iberdrola Renovables recently acquired half of a 350 MW portfolio to end-2009 from energy group API Nova Energia Nova to add to the 200 MW of projects it already owns in Italy.

In neighbouring France, Iberdrola Renovables claims 200 MW online and building and Neo Energía has secured 560 MW of projects from French developers Eole 76 and Eurocape. Bucking the trend of Spanish purchases in France, however, Acciona Energía sold its 50% stake in France's top developer, Compagnie du Vent, to French-Dutch energy group GDF-Suez at the end of last year. At the time market analysts suggested that Acciona was raising needed cash after its purchase of Endesa.

The hardware

All wind turbine manufacturers located in Spain are intending to supply projects throughout the Mediterranean region from their Spanish bases, with Vestas publicly declaring its intentions (page 96). The world's second largest turbine supplier, GE Energy, set up a factory in the Spanish town of Toledo eight years ago with a view to supplying the southern European market. Even Spanish start-up Eozen in Andalucía views the export market, through nearby Mediterranean port access, as its focus.

Gamesa has long since been a major supplier to Italy, though its impact pales alongside that of Vestas, which has supplied more than half of all turbines there. Elsewhere on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, Gamesa has barely made an impression. But the company says it is on course to be market leader in Morocco and Egypt. In Morocco, it has a contract with ONE to supply the 140 MW Tangier Wind Energy Park. In Egypt, it has a 240 MW contract with the New and Renewable Energy Authority, a government agency that for the past decade has stood for the country's wind energy development. Gamesa has also made strides into Tunisia, where it has built one wind farm, is building 35 MW and has won a tender for 120 MW.

Veteran Spanish turbine manufacturer Ecotècnia is now controlled from Switzerland by Alstom Windpower's CEO Robert Gleitz. He sees the Mediterranean as vital to the company's international expansion plans and points to Ecotècnia's Rome and Toulouse offices as the best performers abroad. The first commercial sale of the company's new 3 MW turbine has been to Italy, with six machines on the way. The next 12 are headed for France, where Ecotècnia already has 124 MW of its older technology up or building. Last year it announced contracts to supply 85 MW to projects in Italy, together with plans to develop a further 170 MW in the country.

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