First wind plantin South Korea

Japanese wind power developer Marubeni Corporation is to construct the first commercial wind plant in South Korea in partnership with South Korean Unison Company. Denmark's Vestas will supply the 24 turbines, each rated at 1.65 MW, for the 39.6 MW project in Yougduck town, Gyongsangbuk-do province in South Korea's south-eastern region.

Due to start commercial operation in May, the wind station will be owned by three companies, with Unison taking a 61% share in it and Marubeni and Vestas taking 34% and 5%, respectively.

The project will be Unison's first wind plant venture, although it has been investigating South Korea's wind energy potential for the past five years. Until now the company has focused mainly on selling industrial products, but it is keen to further exploit the national wind power resource. Indeed, Marubeni is considering participation in a future 100 MW project planned by Unison, although no details have been revealed as yet.

Under a 15 year power purchase agreement, the electricity generated by the Yougduck wind farm will be sold to government utility Korea Electric Power Corporation for KRW 107.66/kWh ($0.095/kWh). This rate is almost double the average spot price for electricity quoted on the Korea Power Exchange last month, but under government guidelines published a year ago, the rate and term of the contract is guaranteed for renewable energy power plants which start commercial operation before October 2006.

Denmark's export fund, Eksport Kredit Fonden (EKF), and French Bank BNP Paribas are providing loans for the project, as local banks were hesitant to do so. According to EKF's Karl-Heinz Schulz, the project is likely to be the "necessary door opener to the tricky South East Asian market" for Vestas. "It has taken Vestas several years to land this order," he says. "I cannot imagine that the company would do that for just 40 MW." Presumably referring to the planned 100 MW wind farm, he adds that negotiations of a new wind farm are currently under way and potential sites have already been selected.