Europe's largest supplier of natural gas, Gaz de France (GDF), has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ma•a Sonnier, a Lyon-based engineering and construction firm, to buy a 49% stake in a new company to be charged with development of wind stations on behalf of both groups. If all goes to plan, Ma•a Eolis, as the new entity will be known, will be operational by the end of the year. It will oversee the development, construction and operation of wind plant with the aim of securing access to 1000 MW of installed capacity in Europe by 2012. Some 50% of this will be in France. The move forms part of GDF's strategy to diversify into renewable energy sources. The group's UK subsidiary, Gaz de France ESS, signed a ten year contract in March to buy the full annual output (100-120 GWh) of the Earlsburn wind plant near Stirling, Scotland, due to come on-line in early 2007. In total GDF produces 738 MW of electricity from its gas turbine stations in France, the UK and Spain and aims to increase its entire generating capacity to 5000 MW by 2012, of which 10% will come from renewables, with a focus on onshore wind power. GDF is owned 80.2% by the French state, with the remaining 19.8% floating capital. In 2001, the privately owned Ma•a Sonnier set up a renewables division to develop hydro, wind and solar power. The division owns and operates four wind plant with a total installed capacity of 48 MW in the Meuse département of northeast France and has a further 550 MW under development.
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