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Italian developer leads pack in Albania

Sicily-based developer Moncada Energy Group is leading a pack of Italian developers who are eyeing wind projects in Albania, a country that is rich in hydroelectric power but boasts not even a single megawatt of wind capacity. The plan is to ship much of the electricity eventually produced back to Italy, taking advantage of a bilateral treaty that allows production from wind plant in Albania to receive the attractive incentive prices paid for wind production in Italy. Moncada's project is the most ambitious of them all so far; the company is planning a 500 MW wind farm as well as a merchant line that would allow it to import the electricity to Italy.

Market players say Albania has no functioning incentive system for wind energy and pays out low prices for electricity in general, so selling the wind power produced locally makes no financial sense. Albania's electricity network is also in a poor state and beset by frequent blackouts, although there are plans to modernise the transmission system.

"Our project is 95% approved," says Salvatore Moncada. "We expect to open the construction site next year." The founder of Moncada Energy Group says the project will be technically connected to the Albanian electricity network to comply with expected norms, but for all practical purposes will function separately with its own transmission to Italy. "The entire Albanian network has capacity of about 800 MW, and we could compromise its functioning," he explains.

Less bullish about the immediate prospects for wind power in Albania is Guy Teuwissen of Italian developer Asja Ambiente Italia. He cites the poor state of the Albanian electricity network and a lack of clarity on land ownership as obstacles that must be overcome before his company can put a wind plant into production in the country. "Let's say that things are very, very difficult. We are monitoring the situation." Asja is monitoring wind strengths with ten anemometer masts and plans to shortly double that number.

Meanwhile, other companies besides Moncada have also unveiled specific wind projects in Albania. Diversified Italian firm Italgest is awaiting authorisation for a 150 MW wind farm south of Durazzo, while Italian-Albanian company Green Energy, part of Italy's Marseglia Group, has plans for a 290 MW wind farm in northern Albania. Swiss-based renewables group EnergyMixx, which calls Italy its home market, has plans for its own 178 MW Albanian wind plant.

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