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Chinese take stakes in wind farm projects in Australia

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 9:28 p.m.

SYDNEY — The Roaring Forties gales off Tasmania, where Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn was first smitten with sailing, are luring Chinese investors with a different passion — harnessing wind to generate electricity.

Shenhua Group Corp., China's biggest coal producer, has taken stakes in three wind power projects on the Australian island through state-owned renewable energy unit Guohua Energy Investment Co. It's also a potential investor in a proposed $2 billion Tasmanian wind farm, which would be the biggest in the southern hemisphere.

“Australia is becoming a preferred destination,” said Helen Zhi, a business development director at KPMG in Sydney who visited Chinese renewable energy companies in October. “Only one put America as the No. 1 prioritized market. All the others, particularly among wind players, put Australia as No. 1.”

Besides the wind, China is attracted by billions of dollars available from government funding.

Another plus is Australia's renewable energy target legislation, which shows a determination to change the country's carbon intensity and energy mix by 2020, said Roy Adair, chief executive officer of Hydro Tasmania, the state-owned energy company.

The site of the TasWind project is King Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Melbourne in southeast Australia, where the westerly winds in the days of sail drove at least 60 ships onto rocks to claim 800 lives before the first lighthouse was built in 1883.

Flynn, a leading man in movies of the 1930s and '40s, was born in Tasmania and said in a memoir that he developed a lifelong love of the sea and sailing there.

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