EBRD finances new wind farm in Bulgaria

Similar to many countries in the region, Bulgaria relies significantly on thermal and nuclear sources to satisfy its power needs, with less than 10 per cent of its electricity generated from renewable sources, of which just one per cent from wind power. The project will help Bulgaria meet its EU set target to increase its renewable energy production to 16 per cent by 2020.

Located 25 km inland from the Black Sea, the Suvorovo wind farm will comprise 30 wind turbines and will have a capacity of 60 MW. It is expected to start its operation by the end of 2010.

As part of the project, Eolica Bulgaria, majority-owned by the Spanish Enhol Group, focusing on development of renewable energy in Spain, central and eastern Europe, will develop and operate the wind farm, build a new substation at the project site and a line to interconnect the wind farm to the national power network.

Structured under the Bank’s A/B scheme, the EBRD will offer €17.5 million for syndication, retaining €42.5 million on its account.

With total cost of €108 million the project is co-financed by a €11 million loan from the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank and by Enhol Group’s equity investment.

"Promoting generation of renewable energy is one of the EBRD’s core priorities in countries of its operations, and we are pleased to support this important project at a time when securing the necessary financing remains a challenging task”, said Nandita Parshad, Director of EBRD’s Power and Energy team.

“The Suvorovo wind farm will have a strong demonstration impact, outlining the commercial viability of such projects and will help Bulgaria in meeting its green energy objectives”, added Nandita Parshad.

“It has taken a while to achieve the full development of a project in Bulgaria, but certainly, Suvorovo project consolidates Enhol Group’s presence in the country where we anticipate the construction of several wind farms with a total installed capacity of 200-250 MW in the next few years”, said Antonio Oliver, Enhol Group’s CEO.

In the recent years Enhol Group’ has been focusing on extending its wind energy activities internationally, particularly in eastern Europe, Latin America and India. The Group’s total portfolio of projects at different stages of development, including the wind farms in Spain, Italy and Portugal, represent close to 1000 MW of nominal capacity.

This is the EBRD’s second wind farm project in Bulgaria. In 2008 the Bank and the International Financial Corporation provided a €198 million investment for the construction of the St. Nikola wind farm.

Overall, since the beginning of the EBRD’s operations in Bulgaria, the Bank has committed €2 billion in more than 120 projects in key sectors of country’s economy, mobilising additional investment worth more than €6.7 billion.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA Report) concludes that there will be no significant impacts resulting from the Project and the results of the ESDD largely concur with these findings. However, there are a number of issues which were identified during the ESDD which are as follows:

The project site lies within the western extent of the Via Pontica bird migratory route and the lesser numbers of birds and species recorded during the bird survey in the wider area reflect this. The site itself does not appear to correlate with this wider area activity with far fewer birds observed and recorded flying over the site. ESDD highlighted the need for additional bird surveys during autumn 2009 and spring/summer 2010 to strengthen the existing baseline information to provide further site specific information to support the EIA findings. The results of the surveys will be reviewed by an independent specialist to confirm whether a Collision Risk Assessment (CRA) is required to quantify the risks and revise the mitigation measures proposed.

The site is not located within a designated or protected area; however the EIA reported that the European Ground Squirrel which is a priority species in the Habitats Directive was identified in the vicinity and as a result the location of two turbines was changed. As information within the EIA report was based on a desk top study, ESDD identified the need for a site survey prior to construction starting to ensure that burrows are avoided.

Although some element of EHS and HR management systems are in place at the corporate level, these are not in yet in place for the Project. Efforts are already underway by the Project to address the need to provide relevant policies and procedures.

The Project has been undertaken thus far in compliance with Bulgarian statutory requirements and EBRD’s Performance Requirements in respect of public consultation and disclosure. It also complies with the relevant requirements of the Aarhus Convention. The client has produced a Stakeholder Engagement Plan (SEP), which captures the key consultations undertaken thus far and sets out how consultations will be undertaken for the duration of the Project from pre-construction through to operation.

This Wind Farm project provides an opportunity to generate carbon free electricity. The Sponsor has registered the Company and will pay taxes to the Municipality and therefore provide money to spend locally. A letter of intent has also been provided to the Municipality with commitments to use local companies and labour where possible, to fund social and cultural activities and two university scholarships.

An Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP) has been agreed with the Sponsor to ensure that the Project will fully comply with EBRD’s Performance Requirements. The ESAP includes requirements for: the implementation of a Social and Environmental Management and Monitoring Systems (SEMS) and a Health and Safety Management System; additional on-site surveys for birds and flora and fauna; the implementation of the SEP and publicising of the grievance mechanism.

The Sponsor will be required to provide an annual environmental and social report to the Lenders, including updates on the bird monitoring undertaken, implementation of the agreed ESAP, and notification on any material accidents or incidents.