Hot competition for a place on the list -- Croatian utility caps market

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For the wind project developers eagerly awaiting news of Croatia's new renewable energy policy late last year, 2007 proved to be the bearer of bad news, although it was not altogether unexpected. Though developers have 1500 MW lined up for Croatia worth EUR 1 billion, a cap of 360 MW has been applied by the power system operator and is likely to remain in place for the next several years. Croatia has just 17 MW of wind power online, a figure now static for over a year, though that should change in 2008, with 67.8 MW of projects in construction expected to boost cumulative capacity to around 85 MW.

News of the 360 MW cap applied by HEP-Operator Prijenosnog Sustava (HEP-OPS) came less than a month after the government raised its renewables target to 5.8% of electricity supplies by 2010, placed a renewable energy obligation on utilities, and set a purchase price for wind power, deemed good enough by developers, of HRK 0.64-0.65/kWh (EUR 0.08/kWh) for the first 12 years of operation. HEP-OPS fears that greater penetration of wind power would put system security at risk. Once the 360 MW limit is reached, it will stop issuing preliminary approvals.

Competition among developers for a place on HEP-OPS's list under the new restriction is fierce. While there is room for just 275 MW before the limit is met, some 600 MW spanning 40 wind farms are in the queue. Project proposals will be ranked according to how they meet specific criteria, including the status of their land use application, environmental impact, and degree of readiness to move forward. Unlucky applicants will have to wait for expansion of the grid network.

Projects competing for final approval include the EUR 55 million, 42 MW Vratarusa wind farm, being developed by a joint venture of Croatian firm Valalta and Germany's Wallenborn Projektentwicklung, with a construction start slated for August. The partners also want to start work on an 80 MW project at Cicarija by the end of the year. Both projects will use Vestas turbines. Enersys has hopes for a second Croatian wind plant, a EUR 35 million, 34 MW development at Ponikve near Ston.

A further 100 MW is planned by Croatian power transmissions equipment producer Dalekovod, which has teamed up with state utility HEP to form Dalekovod Eko. It expects its first project, a 60 MW wind park near Zadar, to be operational by the end of 2008. Other big projects planned include Adria Wind Power's 52.5 MW Rudine plant in the municipality of Slano and an 80 MW plant planned at Golo Brdo by Kastel International, a Croatian firm.

The projects due online this year are Adria Wind's 5.9 MW Ravne 2 project, doubling the capacity of its existing wind plant on Pag, a 9.9 MW plant being built by Enersys in Orlice, and what will be Croatia's largest project to date, the 52 MW Jasenice wind park, comprising 40 Nordex turbines, being developed by Censur Zrmanja and Austrian partner CE Energy Holding AG.

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