Coillte and ESB eye wind energy venture

A JOINT venture between Coillte and the ESB to develop 1,000MW of wind farms could be up and running within a year if a deal between the pair can be finalised, according to Coillte CEO Fergal Leamy.

The two semi-State companies announced yesterday that they have entered into talks to form the joint venture, with a hope that negotiations can be concluded by May.

The companies would take an equal share in the entity.

Coillte, in conjunction with advisers IBI and Capricorn, has been seeking a joint venture partner for more than a year for its wind farm development programme, which currently has 12 high priority sites.

Coillte has a number of additional sites that could be built on in the longer term.

Mr Leamy, who is stepping down as Coillte CEO in June for a private sector role, said that the company has spent about €9m in the past year preparing sites for wind farm development.

The company has previously worked with the ESB on developing two other windfarms, in Co Cork and Co Wicklow.

The Coillte boss said that the joint venture with the ESB, if agreed, would also require a financing partner with access to low-cost capital.

He said such a partner could potentially emerge from the pensions or insurance sectors. Coillte and the ESB have already held talks with the government regarding the joint venture, and with the European Commission.

Last year, Coillte sold its operating wind farm assets to Greencoat Renewables for an enterprise value of €281m.

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