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Wind shifts, finally, in Romania

Sep 05, 2008 - New World Publishing

Construction is expected to begin this month in Romania on what backers claim will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm with an expected capacity of 600MW.

Formed from the sale of two adjacent sites owned by renewable power developer Continental Wind Partners (CWP) to Czech utility company CEZ, the combined site will generate around 354MW by the end of 2009, with the rest of the turbines expected to be in operation by the following year. Situated in the Dobrogea province of Romania, 117km from the Black Sea, the Fantanele and Cogealac sites will represent around 30% of the renewable market in the country, which also includes large hydroelectric projects. The project was originally developed by CWP for Good Energies, an investor in renewable energy that procured the turbines for the project. However, despite the scale of the planned Dobrogea project, wind farm development has been very limited to date in Romania, with a handful of existing turbines offering only around 7MW of capacity. "There are about three turbines, very small ones, which you can just see in the distance from our site with a powerful pair of binoculars," said director of Good Energies Andrew Lee. "Effectively Romania has no wind capacity at the moment." Lee claimed that the current legislative regime does not encourage independent renewable power developers to invest. He said Good Energies had wanted to back the scheme itself rather than sell to CEZ, but had been forced to offload the project because Romania's green certificate incentive regime expires in 2012, despite repeated calls for the government to extend it. "We are really disappointed not to be building this facility," he said. "We waited 18 months for the parliament to renew the legislation and in the meantime companies such as CEZ and others were making strong pitches to us to buy the assets. Eventually we decided to go down that route." The Romanian green certificate scheme is similar to one operating in the UK and was put in place around eight years ago for a 10-year period. The Romanian government's slow action over renewing the scheme meant that Good Energies was effectively forced to sell the project to a company which has sufficiently large assets to be able to finance the project until the certificate scheme is eventually extended. "If you are a utility and not having to use off-balance sheet debt financing, then you can make the investment anyway and finance it on your balance sheet. Under European Law the Romanians will have to renew this tariff sooner or later," Lee said. "However, we are not going to be able to borrow five hundred million from the bank at the moment." The new backers are expecting to get around 35% efficiency from the turbines, on a par with what would be expected from a similar scheme in Scotland. Despite the size of the project, with around 139 turbines initially, Good Energies claims that it faced little resistance from the local community. "It is a large facility but then the site is simply huge," said Lee. "It's in quite an empty part of the country and will be enormously beneficial to the local population, in terms of the rents farmers are getting for use of their land." Good Energies is setting up a charitable foundation to benefit the local population.