First of thirteen Basque plant now building

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Construction has begun on the Basque region's first wind farm following four years of delays. It is being installed in the environmentally sensitive area of Sierra de Elgea, on the border of the two Basque provinces of Alava and Guipuzcoa, and occupies land in municipalities belonging to both provinces.

Setbacks have largely involved continual adjustments to meet environmental concerns, including the incorporation of flight corridors for migratory birds along the entire four kilometre length of the wind plant's linear layout as well as re-routing the line of turbines in order to diminish visual impact.

The wind farm's developers are Eolicas de Euskadi SA, controlled equally by two Basque-based companies: the Ente Vasco de la Energia (EVE)-the regional government's holding company-and Iberdrola Diversificacion SA, an affiliated company of Iberdrola, one of Spain's major utilities. They have awarded the E16.8 million contract for the 40 turbines, each of 600 kW, to Gamese Eolica, 50% of which also belongs to Iberdrola. Gamesa makes Vestas turbines.

According to EVE estimates, this ESP 4 billion (i24 million) investment is expected to produce between 65 and 75 GWh a year, once all 40 wind turbines are installed. This is equivalent to the electricity demand of 100,000 people, which, as the company stresses, would involve the annual release of 60,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere if satisfied by a conventional thermal plant.

The project is included in the region's energy strategy plan, approved by parliament and known as Plan 3E-2005. This envisages the contribution from renewable sources increasing from the current 2.7% to 12% by 2005, with wind power supplying 3% of the total mix. The regional government estimates approximately 250 MW of wind power to be exploitable by 2010 and has 12 other sites in mind for development.

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