Out of Spain and into America -- Third developer acquisition

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Spain's Naturener Group is continuing its expansion into the North American wind power market by acquiring 100% of the shares of West Windeau Inc, based in the Canadian province of Alberta, for an undisclosed price. The purchase is Naturener's third wind industry acquisition. Earlier this year it bought Great Plains Wind & Energy LLC, a Montana developer, and Alberta's Energy Logics Inc.

Naturener, owned by Belgian industrial group Sapec, Spanish savings bank Caja Castilla La Mancha and a private North American investor, now has a project development portfolio of about 2000 MW, nearly evenly split between the US and Canada. Of that, West Windeau adds about 600 MW, with its 200 MW Wild Rose 1 Wind Farm at an advanced state of development, 200 MW more in the mid-stages and 100-200 MW in the early assessment phase.

José María Sanchez Seara, CEO of Naturener Canada and Naturener USA, says the acquisition of West Windeau is a logical progression for the projects. "West Windeau's primarily a development company," he says. "Now it is time to move the projects through to construction and the operation phases. This requires a different level of experience and enhanced financial capacity."

The purchase also brings Naturener an experienced team to continue its Canadian expansion, he says. West Windeau chairman David Boileau will join the Naturener Canada board, while president Claude Mindorff will lead Canadian development. The two men developed Canada's largest operating wind farm, the 189 MW Prince project in Ontario, in partnership with Brascan Power Corporation, which went on to take full ownership.

Strategic decision

While Naturener's efforts have been focused on the Montana and Alberta markets, says Sanchez Seara, it is looking for opportunities in other markets in both Canada and the US. In Spain, wind power penetration is already hitting about 15% of generating capacity, he says, so there is little room for additional projects in Naturener's home market. It even made the strategic decision to sell 350 MW under development in Spain prior to construction. "It was effectively to concentrate our efforts in hydro and solar in Spain, and in wind in North America. We had very few possibilities to grow up in the wind business in Spain, as it is a very mature market."

By contrast, he says, wind energy represents less than 1% of the electricity supply in North America and there is "strong public and government support" for adding more. The company's goal is to construct 300-500 MW a year in North America. Its first projects, expected to come on line by the end of 2008, include the 300 MW McCormick Ranch project in Montana and 9 MW of its Alberta Prairie Home project near Pincher Creek.

Naturener announced a $400 million deal with Acciona Windpower in June for the supply of 200 of the Spanish manufacturer's AW 77/1500 class II wind turbines. Acciona has a manufacturing facility in Iowa.

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