Strategic purchase in wind developer for major utility Kansai

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Mindful that by law it has to source 1.36% of its electricity supply from renewables by 2010, Japan's second largest utility, Kansai Electric Power Company, is investing ยด500 million ($4.5 million) in Ecopower to give it a 20.6% stake in the country's second largest wind developer. The purchase follows on the heels of a similar decision by Tokyo utility, TEPCO, which last year acquired a share in wind developer Eurus Energy Holding Corporation. Kansai Electric is based in Osaka and covers the surrounding Kansai region, almost without turbines so far. The utility is currently measuring winds at ten locations in the region with a view to development of a joint venture with Ecopower or other developers. Engineering giant Ebara Corp remains the main shareholder in Ecopower, which already has around 100 MW of wind capacity online or under construction. It aims to generate around 300 MW from wind power by 2010. A year ago, Ebara entered into a technology transfer agreement with German turbine manufacturer Pfleiderer, which was recently bought by national competitor Fuhrländer. Ebara has the right to exclusively produce, sell and service turbines based on Pfleiderer's technology in Japan as well as a non-exclusive right to sell the turbines in the rest of Asia. So far Ebara is only producing a 1.5 MW wind turbine, the first of which is to be installed in October at Sakata City in Yamagata. The developer is the Kosmo Oil Company. Ecopower also hopes to install 12 of Ebara's turbines in an 18 MW wind farm in Shikoku island in Ehime-Prefecture, although the project depends on public subsidies, which have yet to be confirmed. If granted, the wind farm is expected to start producing electricity by March 2006.

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