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Atel to invest US$41.4 million in Swiss small hydro

Swiss utility Aare-Tessin AG fur Elektrizitat (Atel) says it plans to invest 50 million francs (US$41.4 million) in the development of small hydropower plants in Switzerland, and to make hydro development inroads into Italy.

Atel said November 30 it plans to exploit the economically viable potential of renewable energy sources, as a first move, by building four small hydro plants in Switzerland and Italy, plus two wind farms on Italy's island of Sicily.

The utility said it has established Atel EcoPower AG, which already has taken a stake in Entegra AG, which commissioned a 140-kW hydro plant in eastern Switzerland in October. It said additional projects are being studied, with local partners whenever possible.

In the canton of Ticino, Atel owns a stake in Senco Holding SA via its Sopracenerina SA subsidiary. Senco has built three plants in Ticino, totaling 3.6 MW. Six more 1 MW plants are planned for the area.

Atel said it also is focusing on increasing the capacity of existing plants. Having built the 23-MW Ruppoldingen and refurbished the 51.3-MW Gosgen, both on the Aare River, from 1996-2000, Atel now is investing 30 million francs (US$24.8 million) to increase capacity of the 21.7-MW Flumenthal project near Solothurn. Replacement turbines are expected to generate 6 percent more power than the original units.

Italian hydro expansion planned

By the end of 2006, Atel is acquiring from private investors an 85 percent stake in two small hydro projects in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Atel plans to expand one of the projects, 4-MW Monte Rosa, built in 2001 on Sesia River.

The Italian second plant, of 4.6-MW, is to be completed nearby in 2008. Atel said it and its new Italian partners plan to further develop the plant and have established a separate company to build and acquire additional Italian power plants.

Atel said it also is acquiring wind generation and is considering construction of large-scale thermal projects, including nuclear power, to keep up with growing demand.

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