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United Kingdom

New partnerships in US and Europe -- Catamount gets serious

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Catamount Energy, a utility subsidiary operating out of the northeast US, says it is taking on partners to accelerate its wind development operations in America and Britain. A year ago the company, a subsidiary of Central Vermont Public Service, announced a new business focus purely on wind development. It now says the new partnerships will give it a way to substantially enter new markets with a strong local presence.

Catamount's move into the UK market is in a joint venture with a new British wind farm development company Force9energy of Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Force9, formed two month's ago, is headed by David Butterworth, former head of international development for Britain's National Wind Power, a long established wind industry player. Catamount has entered a similar arrangement with North American Renewables Corp to focus on New England wind projects in the US.

"Catamount has just two small wind holdings so far," says CEO James Moore. "In the next few years, we expect that these two deals will produce new wind projects that dwarf these holdings." Catamount bought its first two German wind projects two years ago.

Aggressive in UK

The UK joint venture aims to develop at least 300 MW of wind power in England, Scotland and Wales over the next five years. "This venture provides Force9 with the opportunity to focus on market opportunities in the UK with an aggressive, quality company," says Butterworth. Under the joint venture agreement, Catamount will fund the venture and invest in wind projects, while Force9 will lead on site identification and development and ultimately the company's revenue will be generated by the projects.

Britain's new Renewables Obligation legislation makes the UK an exciting market for wind, Butterworth believes. "The prices that will be achievable will allow us to target areas where wind speeds are not so high, but where wind farms stand a better chance of being consented," he says. He expects prices for renewables in the range of EUR 0.08-EUR 0.11/kWh.

According to Butterworth, the venture's initial focus is on Scotland and England. "We are working closely with local authorities to identify sites not just based on wind speeds, but based on gaining community acceptance," he says. Permitting remains the overriding obstacle to wind energy in the UK, he maintains. "So it is up to developers to work with the situation and find sites that are acceptable, and the renewables obligation gives us the opportunity to do that."

David Little, head of business development for Catamount's UK and European division, says the company wanted to do something substantial in Britain, but needed an entrepreneurial presence in the country, which Butterworth provides. "We needed someone with a strong understanding of the market and of the development process," he says. "We've worked with David. He has an entrepreneurial spirit and everything he will do now will benefit Catamount."

The US partnership with North American Renewables is a reverse image of its UK partnership. Catamount provides the local knowledge in New England, while splitting development costs with NA Renewables. Together they form New England Windpower.

Spanish involvement

"We have the local presence, the political connections and good knowledge of transmission issues," Little says. "On the other hand, NA Renewables has knowledge and abilities we don't have. We'll share the expenses, the risk and information. It's a good way to get more projects into the pipeline."

NA Renewables is a subsidiary of CADER SA, which is a part of Spain's Group EHN-Iberdrola, the Iberian Peninsula's most prolific wind plant developer and operator. Iberdrola is a major Spanish utility and aims to become a world player on the renewable energy market. It is backing 693 MW of wind projects in Brazil (Windpower Monthly, January 2002), as well as numerous projects in Spain.

New England Windpower is negotiating at least one power purchase agreement and plans to have at least eight projects in the pipeline within six months, Little says.

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