New world order for wind developers -- Acciona's Endesa purchase

A total of 1300 MW of wind plant across Spain and Portugal is set to change hands as part of the carve up of the country's largest utility, Endesa, between national construction giant Acciona and Italian utility Enel. The wind assets are a minor part of Endesa's 46 GW of total generating capacity, but are set to make Acciona runner-up as largest owner of wind plant in the world behind Spain's second utility, Iberdrola, and ahead of America's FPL Energy.

The deal brings Acciona's online wind capacity to at least 4912 MW, just up on FPL's 4500 MW operating by mid 2007, though still a way off the 7000 MW operated by Iberdrola. Acciona has been involved in wind power in Spain since the late 1990s and became globally active as a wind project developer after its purchase of Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra in 2005. It also makes its own range of wind turbines.

Once a new Endesa board is in place, Acciona will merge its renewables operations overseen by Acciona Energía, with Endesa's renewables arm, Endesa Cogeneración y Renovables (ECYR). As compensation for Acciona's grab of Endesa's renewable energy assets, Enel gets part of the 14 GW of conventional generation Endesa operates in Latin America. The remaining Endesa assets will remain under the ownership of the joint Acciona-Enel venture.

Acciona could become a competitor for the number one slot. Its wind development includes 300 MW building in Valencia and plans for 1200 MW across North America by end 2009. It also gets access to 196 MW Endesa is building in Italy and 74 MW in France. Endesa's Portuguese wind development subsidiary, Finerge, is also building 200 MW in Portugal, where it operates 150 MW so far and it is part of the Eólicas de Portugal consortium, which won a government tender for 1200 MW of wind plant this year. The deal also opens the door to the potentially huge Latin American market where Endesa has influence as the region's single biggest utility.

Iberdrola, however, is also bent on ramping up its wind business. Last month it announced a strategic plan to boost its wind power capacity by 5800 MW to 2010, 3300 MW of that in the US, 900 MW in Spain and 800 MW in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Acciona-Enel partnership is committed to a new 500 MW turbine deal with Gamesa for projects in Spain (page 28), though in the longer term the merged wind business is more likely to become the key customer for Acciona turbines, points out Emerging Energy Research, a renewables advisory firm.

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