Spanish developer breaks American connection

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Spain's Abengoa Wind Power (AWP) has split from its American partner, Kenetech of California, and apparently pulled out of further wind energy development. Abengoa and Kenetech were joint partners in the development of the major part of Spain's biggest wind farm, the Sociedad Eolica de Andalucia at Tarifa, which has a total of 272 wind turbines.

According to a spokeswoman for AWP, based in Seville, the Spanish partner announced the split on March 9. A new subsidiary, 100% owned by Abengoa, called Desarollos Eolicos SA (Wind Development Limited), will carry out maintenance of the existing turbines, but a planned 30 MW expansion at Tarifa, initially to be erected by AWP has been cancelled. The Abengoa spokeswoman said that whether or not the expansion went ahead was "up to the Americans."

Tomas Andueza, Abengoa's director in Seville, was not available for comment. Neither was a comment forthcoming from Kenetech's Bud Grebey in California. Spanish industry sources, however, believe the announcement should be taken at no more than face value. A hitherto unknown company in Spain, Kilovatio Tarifa, has apparently put in a request to install Kenetech 330 KW turbines at the same location as the planned AWP expansion. "Whether or not this is Abengoa using a new company name or Kenetech directly, no one seems to know," says one industry source.

The move to split with Kenetech preceded a series of well published attacks on the technical quality of the AWP/Kenetech wind turbines by Spain's Conservative opposition party. In a report drawn up by the Popular party's José Fuentes Pacheco, the turbines are described as "obsolete and outdated." They were made in Spain by Abengoa Wind Power under license from Kenetech, formerly known as US Windpower. Thousands of the same model turbine were installed by US Windpower in the 1980s, mainly in California.

Fuentes Pacheco claims to base his findings on industry magazines and his own research, although manufacturers of Spanish designed turbines have previously complained about competition from foreign companies (Windpower Monthly, January 1994). The report, cited at length in the regional Europa Sur newspaper, states that while in the rest of Europe and the US bigger wind turbines are favoured, Spain has been "fobbed off" with a series of "obsolete, old and outdated" machines. Kenetech "is developing bigger and improved turbines while their old ones are being dismantled. It's about time that we question if Spanish and European funds have been used properly," he adds.

Part of the report reflects his own observations at Tarifa. "On some days when the wind flow is intermediate," says Fuentes Pacheco, the 150, 100 kW AWP turbines are frequently static while the larger 150 kW and 180 kW turbines designed and manufactured locally by MADE and Ecotécnia function perfectly. How is this possible?" Fuentes Pacheco says his party plans to question overall management of the wind farm at Tarifa at local, national and European level. "If mismanagement is the case, we will demand an investigation," he says.

AWP's spokeswoman said Andueza was not available to comment on the technical capability of his turbines. She referred to a reply from Andueza to Fuentes Pacheco's claims, published in the same newspaper. In it, Andueza did not address the claims that his machines were technically inferior, but reported overall figures for the entire wind farm, saying that production had exceeded initial estimates.

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