German with ambition to reign in Spain

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Less than a handful of foreign wind project developers have pierced the Spanish market, but German based Umwelt

kontor Renewable Energy is proving it can be done. It has 1000 MW of wind power in the pipeline in Spain and expects 500 MW to be up and running by 2005. By then it sees itself as the country's fifth largest wind developer. "An ambitious target but a realistic one," says Spanish division manager Oliver Scheld. The first steps have already been taken. Umweltkontor recently took a 26% share in two projects totalling 99 MW currently going up in Aragón. It also controls 45% of a 120 MW wind development plan approved by Valencia's regional government, put together jointly with fellow German company Sistemas de Energías Regenerativas SA (SERSA), a subsidiary of German firm Nevag.

"Spain has among Europe's best wind resources," says Scheld. Coupled with what he sees as an "excellent economic framework" for wind plant operators, he foresees that Spain's installed wind capacity will eventually surpass that of Germany. The company aims to channel about EUR 1 billion into Spanish wind. Currently, it is processing 14 development applications totalling around 650 MW for an estimated EUR 650 million. More than half of this is for projects in Andalucia, including an application for what could become Spain's first offshore plant.

Umweltkontor, listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, was founded in 1995 and offers "integrated services in all renewable energies." It has developed 294 MW of wind, nearly all of it at home. Project financing has come from a series of closed-end wind power funds, a German wind market speciality whereby each fund is launched for a specific project, structured as a limited liability company, with private investors participating as limited partners (Windpower Monthly, September 2001). Last year Umweltkontor turned over EUR 164 million, 90% up on 2000. Earnings in 2002 are forecast to rise between 30%-50%. Apart from Germany and Spain, the company is also present in France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. Umweltkontor shed its 15% stake in Nevag last year when the company got into financial difficulties, including the collapse of its turbine making arm, Frisia. Two of Umweltkontor's founding members, Heinrich Lohmann and Leo Nöthlichs, have since bought 50% of Nevag, which owns SERSA.

From control to shares

In Spain, Umweltkontor's involvement in developments varies from complete hands-on control to mere capital shareholding. The two plant in Aragón, collectively known as La Muela, are purely financial concerns. The initial impetus behind the development comes from NEG Micon, which has brought in capital from Germany's BVT Energie und Umwelttechnik AG (30%), giant American-based power marketer TXU (40%), with Umweltkontor taking 26%. Similarly, Scheld says that Umweltkontor is currently negotiating to enter a medium sized wind development in Castile and León region.

At the full-control end of the scale, Umweltkontor is the sole developer behind a series of projects in Andalucia. The company has mature applications for a maximum of 180 MW in the Andalusian provinces of Almeria and Granada. "We are also active members of a developer round table pushing to connect a total of 600 MW in the La Janda area," adds Scheld. Umweltkontor's own share here is for 50 MW via two projects, though it has another 29 MW project in the nearby Puerto Real district. Scheld says that all three projects passed the public consultation stage over a year ago and the regional government should already have passed its verdict. He hopes it will come soon.

Indeed, despite Umwelt-kontor's appreciation of the favourable conditions for wind developers in Spain, Scheld laments the fact that projects can take up to five years to get off the ground. Apart from administrative bottlenecks, grid connection poses serious problems. Granada, Málaga, Almeria and La Janda are fast becoming the most coveted areas of Spain, each with applications for more than 1000 MW. But a regional grid plan has been held back by political wrangling for over a year.

Trafalgar offshore

Perhaps Umweltkontor's most ambitious venture is a 200 MW offshore plant 20 kilometres off Andalucia's Cape Trafalgar. Again, grid restrictions and administrative bottlenecks mean the first turbines are not expected to go up until 2005 at the earliest. If approved, it could be Spain's first offshore wind plant, though the country's dominant developer, Energia Hidroelectrica de Navarra (EHN), has also applied to put up a similar project nearby. Umweltkontor's project was initiated by Swiss developer NEK Umwelttechnik and its Spanish affiliate Fronterwind. Umweltkontor signed up in 2001.

In Valencia, Umweltkontor hopes to become more involved in the day-to-day management of its 120 MW plan with SERSA and set up its own offices in the region. So far it has been responsible for gathering wind measurements. Each company holds a 45% capital stake in a Valencian venture, Nuevas Energías Valencianas SA (NEVASA). The remaining 10% is owned equally by Valencian businesses Industrias Ochoa and Grupo Empresarial Cooperativo Valenciano. Umweltkontor has also entered into a part of SERSA's 555 MW strategic wind plan for Castile-La Mancha, jointly developing one 49.5 MW plant in the region. Again, Umweltkontor is responsible for collecting wind measurements.

Indeed, Scheld perceives a special niche for Umweltkontor in providing wind plant measuring and consulting services internationally. The company controls 49 wind measuring towers in its six Mediterranean markets -- more than any other single company it claims. With just three or four other companies in Europe providing combined measuring and consulting services "it's mainly a case of convincing the banks and plant financing entities that we can do it well," says Scheld. "And we can," he adds.

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