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Belgium

Belgium

Belgian giant enters wind industry

Belgian electricity giant Electrabel has bought a 31% stake in renewable energy concern Westenwind with a view to co-operating in the design, construction and operation of some 250 MW of wind plant in Flanders. But until the province develops its regional wind plan, only local authorities can develop wind projects today, meaning Electrabel will have to wait before it can see a return on its investment. Details on Westenwind are scarce.

The announcement that Belgian electricity giant Electrabel has bought a 31% stake in renewable energy concern Westenwind with a view to co-operating in the design, construction and operation of some 250 MW of wind plant in Flanders would seem to indicate that at last Belgian wind is coming of age. But according to Electrabel's Patrick de Vos, the celebrations will have to wait until the province develops its regional wind plan -- scheduled for 2001. "Until this is in place, power distribution companies are unable to proceed," says De Vos. Only local authorities can develop wind projects today and Electrabel will have to wait for some five years before it begins to see a return on its BEF 6.8 million investment.

Details of Electrabel's partner in this renewables venture are vague. According to De Vos, Westenwind is a small family-run concern in Flanders which is unwilling to talk to the press. The company was founded in February 1997 and is active in the design, development and implementation of small-scale renewable projects with particular emphasis on wind. Westenwind's first project, a 0.6 MW wind plant in Middelkerke, came on-line in August. Two further projects, at Maldegem and Ekelo, are being developed with Electrabel and Flemish mixed inter-municipal companies.

Westenwind has plans for a further 40 Belgian wind plants with a combined capacity of 250 MW. According to De Vos, however, 150 MW of this will be offshore and awaits a future generation of 3 MW wind turbines. Realistically, Electrabel is looking to build some 100 MW of wind in the next five years.

Electrabel's move into wind has been prompted by its conviction that some form of renewables quota is inevitable, although Belgium's current target of 3% by 2004 will be difficult to reach, believes De Vos.

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