First under new pricing regime -- Purchase contract awaits from EDF

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The first wind farm to be completed under France's new feed-in tariff for power from wind plant of 15 MW and less has come on-line even before the power purchase contract has been drawn up. The 5.64 MW Roquetaillade wind farm, above Alet-les-Bains, near Limoux, in Aude département, was built by Cabinet Germa and will be operated by La Compagnie du Vent. It consists of eight G47-705 kW Spanish built Gamesa Eólica turbines, replacing the Vestas units that were originally planned.

An inauguration banquet for the project was attended by 180 out of the community's total population of 200 -- a sign that the wind farm has won local acceptance. Public acceptance of wind farms, especially by rural communities is seen as crucial if France is to attain its renewables target outlined in the EU's renewable energy directive.

The project was approved under France's now defunct EOLE 2005 program, which was superseded last June by a decree on fixed tariffs. Slight local objection caused an initial delay to the project, which took six and a half years to complete from the first meeting with the local mayor to grid connection.

French national utility Electricité de France (EDF), however, has not been able to issue a power purchase contract because it has not been given the go-ahead to do so by the French industry ministry. The decree on tariffs was only passed in the late summer and the French authorities are still catching up with its implementation. "We have had to discuss the contract with the non-nationalised electricity distributors," explains Michel Benard of EDF. "It is now being considered by the minister of industry and is expected to be official by the end of the year. It doesn't change anything for the operators because the wind farm was built after the date of the decree on tariffs: "We have an agreement with them to pay the right amount for their production."

La Compagnie du Vent now operates wind farms totalling 18 MW out of a French total of around 100 MW, about 70 MW of which is on the mainland. Next year it plans to complete 31 MW of wind projects at Grande Garrigue (Aude), Lodévois-Larzac (Hérault), Lavatoggio (Corsica), Plourin and Lanrivoaré (both in Brittany). All of these wind farms have won planning permission.

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