Apulia goes for growth

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As the finishing touches were being placed on new rules for the construction of wind plants in Apulia, market participants revealed the details of a number of projects set to go forward in the southern Italian region. "The timing is no coincidence," says Paolo Montanari of wind consultancy MX Matrix, noting that developers are eager to push ahead with projects before the rules of the game change.

Among those looking to Apulia for growth is France's EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN). With its Italian partner, developer Fri-El, based in Bolzano, EDF EN is developing a 40 MW plant at Minervino. The plant will use 20 Repower 2 MW turbines, with installation set to begin next July. The turbine order, which includes an option for another seven machines, is part of a framework agreement foreseeing the purchase of up to 140, 2 MW wind turbines from the German manufacturer through 2008.

A smaller plant, a 6.7 MW project spearheaded by Metan Air & Elettrogas of Bari, will also go up in Minervino beginning early next year, this time using four Ecotècnia 1.67 MW turbines. The order is the first Ecotècnia has made public since opening a sales office in Rome last year.

Another 36 MW plant will be located in the municipality of Troia, already a favoured location for wind projects. Comprising 24 GE 1.5 MW turbines, the project is the first in the wind business for the renewable energy division of Milan's Waste Italia, which is also developing projects in Calabria and Sicily.

All three developments had entered the authorisation pipeline ahead of a temporary moratorium imposed on new wind projects in the region in August 2005. The moratorium -- intended to stem what the local government said was becoming a "wild West" in wind power development--expired on June 30. The end of Apulia's moratorium coincided with the publication of the region's preliminary energy plan and a draft document laying down new rules for the authorisation of wind plants.

While welcoming the lifting of the moratorium, wind energy association Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento has contested a measure that would give individual municipalities increased responsibilities in regulating the spread of wind power, a move the association says complicates the authorisation process. Originally, municipalities were to say where wind plant can be built, but an amendment to the law says they can now only state where they cannot be constructed. While the amendment is seen as progress by the industry, many are hoping that the measure will be thrown out altogether.

Apulia's regional government has laid out extremely ambitious plans, aiming for 5000 MW of wind capacity, a massive leap from today's wind capacity of around 385 MW and significantly higher than Italy's total capacity of 1800 MW.

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