Spanish company uses press campaign to fight off foreigners


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Spanish wind company Abengoa -- which made headlines two months ago with its split from American company Kenetech of California -- is back in the news with a bang. The Seville-based firm has announced plans to produce its own 300 kW prototype wind turbine and erect several hundred of them at sites initially allotted to international competitors. The unexpected announcement was preceded by a surprising full page colour advertisement in Spain's largest daily newspaper, El Pais. In the advertisement an Abengoa subsidiary, Desarollos E—licos, unveiled what it called "the first variable-speed Spanish-made 300 kW wind turbine to improve environmental conditions and create employment."

The foreign firms with which Abengoa is preparing to do battle are apparently American SeaWest and Nordtank of Denmark which separately have gained permission to develop or supply wind turbines to four wind plants in Galicia in the northwest of the country in the Muxia, Dumbria, Roncudo and Toriñana areas. Construction of these projects has not yet started and under Spanish law it is perfectly legal to try and usurp competitors. According to the Galicia government, however, if Abengoa took over the projects this would "break the existing gentlemen's agreement."

Mystery wind turbine

The news of Abengoa's aggressive marketing has caused a major uproar in the wind industry in Spain, even though it is still to be seen whether the company's bid will prove successful. In late June government officials in Galicia were still scrutinising the legal aspects of the intended take over. Observers of the Spanish wind scene indicate that the major flaw in Abengoa's plan is the wind turbine being promoted by Desarollos E—licos. This has yet to be unveiled, let alone tested. The expectation is that the design is probably based on the 100 kW machines Abengoa built with Kenetech technology for their joint wind farm in Tarifa in southern Spain, constructed in 1992. Tomas Andueza, a member of the board of directors of Desarollos E—licos and a champion of wind power and renewable energy in Spain, told the Cinco Dias newspaper, however, that Abengoa had always planned to build its own technology and that the turbine is all but ready to roll after concluding tests at the company's Seville factory. The same newspaper conjectures that the move could be a purely speculative one, and cites government officials in Galicia as voicing concern over companies that accumulated wind energy development rights with a view to selling choice areas for their wind resources once the viability of a particular area had been established.

The Abengoa-Kenetech partnership came to an abrupt end three months ago, with Abengoa taking over the operation of the existing Tarifa turbines, some 272 in total, and Kenetech proceeding alone with a new 30 MW project in the same region (Windpower Monthly, May 1994).

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