Japanese firm makes solid commitment, massive investment by Tomen in series of European wind farms

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A major Japanese trading company, Tomen Corp, has announced it will be investing around $1.20 billion dollars in development of some 1000 wind turbines in Europe over the next five years. Wind power plants totalling 765 MW are planned for Spain, Italy and Portugal -- representing about 60% of the total wind power capacity installed globally by the entire industry last year.

Tomen has earmarked a 43 square kilometre site in Galicia in Spain for 619 wind turbines, with an installed capacity of 525 MW. Another 361 turbines are destined for a site near Naples in Italy and 20 further machines for Vila do Bispo in Portugal. The plans represent one of the largest single investments yet seen in wind energy.

"We plan to buy the wind turbines from Danish suppliers," says Takasumi Funayama from Tomen Corp in Tokyo. Possible suppliers are Vestas and Bonus. Tomen is mainly known in the wind industry for its investment in wind farms in California and Britain using wind turbines from Mitsubishi, a Japanese company.

Tomen will take a quarter interest in the projects, with the reminder financed by US and European banks. The Japanese company intends to carry out the whole development itself, from selecting sites, buying turbines and eventually running the wind farms. According to Funayama, the company has built up in-house expertise by investing in wind farms in USA and England during the past ten years. The overall responsibility of the European wind farms rests with a European subsidiary of Tomen. The company might also use outside consultants to assist its in-house staff.

Global developer

It is Tomen's aim to be a global, all round independent power producer. It also operates gas, oil and coal power plants. To diversify into every field of electricity production, a policy decision was taken ten years ago to invest in wind farms.

Tomen now operates four wind farms in California and several smaller projects in England, Scotland and Wales (see map) -- where it has previously teamed up with ScottishPower and Power Gen to develop wind plants -- with a combined installed capacity of 58 MW.

Funayama says the very favourable business climates for wind power in Spain, Italy and Portugal have prompted Tomen to put its faith in these markets now. In all three countries, the governments actively support wind power with tax benefits and subsidies. The electricity from Tomen's new wind farms will be sold to local power companies.

Tomen had a turnover of $60 billion in the most recent business year, which closed in March, and a profit of $4 billion. The company employs 2700 people worldwide. News of the company's intended investment in European wind power development made headlines around the world after it was flashed on the Nikkei America wire. Even in India, the Science Express was moved to add to the report that wind "is now competitive with both coal and nuclear power and with developments of this scale is expected to be far cheaper."

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