Fixed tariff attracts Canada player

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Boralex Inc, a Canadian independent power company specialising in small wood-residue and hydro projects, is venturing into wind generation in France. The company, based in Montreal, has formed a joint venture with French developer Seris SA to build and operate a FFR 60 million, 10.4 MW wind farm in Avignonet-Lauragais, near Toulouse in southern France. Boralex will supply construction and operating management and retain a 60% interest in the project.

Power from the facility, which is expected to be up and operating by the summer, will be sold to the state utility Electricité de France under the French government's new pricing scheme for wind farms under 12 MW. Producers get FFR 0.55/kWh for the first five years of a project's life, followed by a guaranteed tariff, according to a sliding scale based on the productivity of a site, for the subsequent ten years.

The prospect of a guaranteed return, says Boralex, helped ease financing for the project. The partners have arranged debt financing of FFR 53 million from a consortium of European banks.

The Avignonet-Lauragais wind farm was originally to have been a 7.5 MW project built under France's EOLE 2005 program, but it will automatically come under the new, more favourable, pricing system. The original plan called for the installation French built Jeumont 750 kW wind turbines. Boralex did not say which turbines will be used in the expanded project.

The wind project, says Boralex president Jacques Gauthier, adds to the company's presence in the French power market. It already has interests in a 1 MW hydroelectric station in La Rochette, in Savoie, and in a 14 MW natural gas fired cogeneration power station in Blendecques, Pas-de-Calais. It also owns power plants in Quebec and the United States for a total installed capacity of about 300 MW.

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