Moving fast and shaking up

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As wind power's traditional markets in Europe mature, Portugal is among the countries taking over where the old left off. Its installed wind power capacity is set to more than double within the next year or so, with a 3750 MW target for 2010 looking well within the bounds of possibility

Portugal's wind sector is on a roll and the activity is shaking up the market. Development of wind turbine clusters of up to 300 MW are nearly ready for construction, while new players are entering the booming market and consortia have emerged between developers and turbine manufacturers. This year alone, final licensing has gone to 539 MW and 43.5 MW has come online, according to Porto University's technology institute, Insituto da Engenharia Mecanica e Gestao Industrial (INEGI). The most conservative guess is for 1000 MW in cumulative capacity by the end of 2005 -- nearly a third of the 3750 MW national objective for 2010. The leap is huge given that just 200 MW was turning at the end of last year.

Just over 31% of capacity online or building is being developed by Enersis. The company's Afonso Proença also claims 150 MW is on course for March 2005, all from licensed projects with down payments to manufacturers already made, or project finance deals clinched, he says. The biggest deal is for 26, 3 MW machines from Vestas of Denmark for the developer's Serro dos Candeeiros project, the manufacturer's biggest single order for this model. The company has also signed up with Germany's Nordex for 15, 2.3 MW machines for a neighbouring project.

Enersis' biggest recent strike is through a joint venture with "a financial partner" that Proença declines to name. The venture has just bought the fully licensed 94 MW Pampillosa da Serra plant from British developer Renewable Energy Systems (RES). All RES assets in Portugal are now sold or on sale. RES had penned Danish manufacturer Bonus to supply turbines as part of an international framework deal between the two companies. The new owners, however, have opened the project to tender and Proença confirms that Bonus is not yet on its list of contenders. Enersis expects Pampillosa to come online by end-year 2005.

Meantime, Enersis has been knocked from its leading position as the company in Portugal currently with the most wind power online. Enernova, the renewables wing of state utility monopoly Electricidade de Portugal (EDP), nudged ahead of Enersis in March following the connection of 21, 2 MW turbines from GE Wind. The turbines are turning across three sites in northern Portugal: Fonteda Quelha, Alto do Talefe and Padrela. Last month, Enernova signed up for a further nine, 1.5 MW turbines from GE through a joint venture called Parque Eólico de Alagoa de Cima, which is behind the fully-licensed 13.5 MW project by the same name. The partners are hydroelectric firm Hidroeléctrica Galaico-Portuguesa, and the town hall of Arcos de Valdevez, in the northwest of the country, where the project is now going up.

Truly big

There are much bigger projects on the horizon, among them some of the world's largest, according to INEGI's Alvaro Rodrigues. A project development consortium made up of Portugal's Finerge and French utility Electricité de France, via affiliate Siif Energy, is behind a 300 MW cluster in Val do Minho, on the northern border with Spain. Rodrigues confirms that the first 36 MW is now fully licensed with a call for turbine supplies issued. He also expects tenders to open soon for the first few projects of a six-plant cluster of 100 MW in the centre of the country, developed by Generg, a major small-hydro operator.

Meanwhile, Enersis and Siif have each formed consortia with turbine manufacturers to compete for the government's long promised developing concession of 300-800 MW for sites not yet allocated (Windpower Monthly, March 2004). Enersis has joined with GE Energy. Siif has gone with Germany's Enercon, together with its Portuguese agent, Finerge. Both consortia have presented industrial plans in advance of the government concession with a view to setting up the country's first turbine facility.

To date, all turbine technology in Portugal has been imported. Now the government's aim, via the concession, is to ensure industrial, employment and investment spin-offs from wind locally. "During delays in publishing the concession, new players are seeing the potential opportunities it presents," says Proença.

New players

Indeed, the buzz around Portugal is that Spanish utility and wind giant Iberdrola also aims to present a business development plan for wind in Portugal and has joined forces with turbine manufacturer compatriot, Gamesa Eólica. Rodrigues says Gamesa Eólica is also fast improving turbine warranty and availability offers in Portugal to clinch contracts with third party developers, which it has so far failed to do. Gamesa's own project development wing claims a project pipeline in Portugal of 450 MW in 11 projects. Recently it sold a licensed project of 18 MW to Iberdrola

Portugal has become one of the key markets for publicly traded German wind turbine manufacturer Repower, still working hard to elevate itself to the big league companies in the wind business. Currently it is building three projects totalling 24 MW near Lisbon. A further 10 MW is due for signing and the company's Alberto Rama claims it has also responded to 12 new calls to tender for a total of around 100 MW. Repower is also negotiating an industrial plan with developers.

"Despite all the activity, there's a feeling that things aren't going as fast as they should," says Rodrigues. Delays in building feed-in lines are mounting, as resources are spread thinly due to the recent surge of activity. Proença adds that local municipalities are not used to processing industrial-scale projects and that final stamping of some project development licenses is delayed by "requisites for wash-basin facilities or roof tiling materials in substations. We are only a small company and with 20 projects lining up for building we have to run to keep up with such petty detail." Nevertheless, Rodrigues is convinced that Portugal will eventually reach its 3750 MW objective: "Maybe not by 2010, as planned, but it's only a question of time. Portugal's development process is unstoppable."

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