French partner out and German in

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Italian wind energy player Fri-El Green Power, based in Bolzano, has formed a joint venture with the recently created Italian arm of RWE Innogy to jointly develop both wind and biomass projects in Italy. Each of the partners will hold a 50% stake in Fri-El SpA, a development company set up with a pipeline of 960 MW in Italian wind energy projects and more than a dozen biomass projects. "RWE Innogy will be our new partner for Italy," says Fri-El's Josef Gostner.

In taking on that role, RWE Innogy, the renewable energy unit of German energy group RWE, is replacing EDF Energies Nouvelles, the renewable energy subsidiary of French utility Electricité de France. "With EDF, we'll still do one or two wind farms in Italy," says Gostner. The replacement of EDF Energies Nouvelles with RWE Innogy does not rule out the possibility of Fri-el linking up with EDF on projects outside Italy. Financial details of how much RWE Innogy Italia paid for its 50% stake in the new company were not disclosed. Gostner says, however, the group was no longer in need of a private equity investor or the money it could get from an initial public offering (IPO) to finance its development pipeline. Fri-el Green Power shelved a planned IPO late last year, citing difficulties attracting international investors as a result of the credit crunch.

Once the new joint venture starts project development, RWE Innogy Italia will own 51% of each project company set up once the construction phase is reached. Gostner says the 960 MW pipeline consists of 30-odd wind farms in the Italian regions of Apulia, Sicily, Sardinia and Basilicata. Fri-El Green Power operates 262.65 MW in Italy, where cumulative capacity is near 3000 MW.

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