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Japan's Marubeni buys into UK offshore with Dong Gunfleet deal

Dong has sold a 49.9% stake in the 172MW Gunfleet Sands offshore wind-farm to Japanese conglomerate Marubeni.

The deal marks the first time a Japanese company has invested in an offshore wind project.

The £200m ($324m) transaction, which is expected to go through in late 2011, is conditional on Marubeni obtaining funding from project-finance banks.

“We believe the offshore wind power sector represents a tremendous growth opportunity not only in Europe, but in Japan and the Americas as well,” says Marubeni executive officer Masumi Kakinoki.

Marubeni is one of Japan’s largest trading companies, with a business empire spanning energy, metals, chemicals and food. It holds a global power-generation portfolio of nearly 9GW across 23 countries – with plans to boost its capacity to 11GW “within a couple of years” – and with renewables accounting for 10%.

The deal represents a continuation of Dong’s winning streak of attracting unconventional investors into the offshore wind sector.

In the past year, the Denmark-based utility has sold stakes in three of its major projects – Anholt, Walney and Nysted – to a variety of Danish and Dutch investors. It is co-developing the London Array and West of Duddon Sands, among other projects.

Commissioned in spring 2010, the two-phase Gunfleet project sits 7km off the coast of Essex in the Thames Estuary, and comprises 48 Siemens turbines.

Under their agreement, Dong will continue to provide operations and maintenance services at Gunfleet, and will take all the electricity and green certificates generated by Marubeni’s half of the project.

Dong continued to dominate the European offshore wind sector in the first half of 2011, owning 39% of new grid-connected capacity thanks to its recently commissioned Walney 1 project in the Irish Sea.

Meanwhile, Japanese investors and manufacturers continue to warm to the wind sector.

In July, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries inked a development deal with the renewables wing of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which may allow the Japanese company to win turbine contracts at the two Round 3 projects SSE is participating in.

Last week, Japan’s parliament waved through a landmark energy bill that will force utilities to buy power from renewable sources, as the country scrambles to move into a post-nuclear era in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Karl-Erik Stromsta, London



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