In which projects is your company currently involved?
This year we sweep the board. The most important wind park that we have finished this year is the one in Toplet, Caras-Sebes county. The current installed capacity is 1.8 MW and will reach 46.8 MW by next year. It is the first wind farm in a mountain area, Toplet being 800 meters high. Moreover, Wind Power Energy along with Energy Group are building Romania's first wind farm to use new turbines. Although Romania has other wind power plants, these use second hand turbines.
Currently, we are completing the setting up of the first turbine for this project and we plan to reach maximum capacity by next year. Under the current legislation, which doesn't have application norms yet, it is more profitable to install new equipment because the investor can get more green certificates.
WPE is also testing the first national dispatch for wind farms, which will control all the turbines from a distance. Furthermore we plan to complete the new wind map of the Dobrogea region by the end of the year, based on the information obtained from our own measurement network.
What are your company's targets this year?
Our goal is to finish another three or four wind farms by the end of this year. Our wind power plant projects total an installed capacity of 1,900 MW, of which 600 MW represents the CEZ project, which will need a EUR 1.1 billion investment. We have focused on projects of 10 MW, 20 MW and 50 MW. My estimation is that an investment in a wind farm can be recovered in eight to ten years.
How has the renewable energy market evolved in the past two years?
One can say that the market for wind power plants has undergone a spectacular boom. Many companies have expressed their interest in investing in this sector. From what I know, the total capacity of the announced investments for the next three years surpasses 16,000 MW. It is a huge capacity and it is more than Romania can currently produce.
In my opinion, Romania will not be able to connect more than 4,000 MW to the grid in the next five or six years. At this point, the state should intervene in order to accelerate investment in the grid expansion and bring the renewable energy law into force as quickly as possible.
How has the crisis influenced investments in this field?
The crisis has had both positive and negative effects. While those investors that obtained financing before the crisis are currently renegotiating their construction contracts, those investors which are currently in the project phase are having big financing problems.
Our company hasn't been affected by the crisis. We have on-going contracts almost to full capacity and we are seriously considering the possibility of bringing new collaborators on board.
What are the main problems an investor might face in this field?
To cut a long story short, the procedures for a wind farm investment get more complicated every day. The number of approvals is increasing and the good fields to put a wind farm are getting fewer, because of real estate speculators.
Another problem is that many entrepreneurs in this area try to fool foreign investors in search of easy money. They spend the money for the actual project on cars and houses and do nothing for the project. There is already a lack of trust in consultancy firms in this field, but at the same time there is a self filtering process on the market. We already have clients who have been fooled by other companies, before reaching us.
As for market information, I can say that even I was surprised when I heard there are companies that began projects in the area years ago, have not managed to achieve any concrete result yet and have not made any order for turbines. What they have done is to hike the land price to double.
Does Romania have the necessary workforce to carry out this kind of project?
From my point of view, wind energy can help Romania to get out of the crisis. If even 10 percent of the announced projects are finished, at least EUR 10 billion should be invested in Romania in the next few years.
Moreover, these investments can generate the workforce for these projects. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of the personnel will be local. Perhaps not many people know this, but at the Polytechnic University, 80 percent of the curriculum is compatible with the renewable energy domain. So, there is potential, but it is essential to know how to use it. Look at our company: in 2006 when we started we were three people and now we have 150 employees.
By Dana Ciuraru