First Wind Proposes New England’s Largest Wind Farm
Boston-based developer First Wind has proposed a 186 MW project in Maine. Named the Bingham Wind Farm, it could become New England’s biggest wind project.
Through subsidiaries Blue Sky West and Blue Sky West II, First Wind is seeking to install 62 wind turbines across Mayfield Township (29 turbines), Kingsbury Plantation (22) and Bingham (11). The approximately $400 million project would also include a 34.5 kV electrical collector system, a handful of met towers, an operations and maintenance building, and an associated transmission line.
No stranger to wind development in Maine, First Wind already has five projects in the state representing a cumulative capacity of 219 MW.
“First Wind has a successful track record of identifying locations with good wind sources and developing well-sited projects, and Bingham fits that profile,” John Lamontagne, the company’s director of communications, tells NAW. If approved, he says the Bingham project would power more than 75,000 homes in New England.
In May, First Wind submitted its project application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The department recently held a meeting to get public input on the wind farm, and according to local media reports, the reactions were mixed. Some attendees touted the project’s potential economic benefits and called for more renewables, while others cited concerns such as noise and possible threats to birds.
Meanwhile, Lamontagne maintains that First Wind has completed environmental studies to help minimize impacts to habitat and wildlife, and there appears to be strong support for the project among the public.
“This project will deliver much-needed economic opportunity to local communities and bring economic development to an area in desperate need for jobs and revenues,” he says, adding that the project could employ more than 200 people.
Another public meeting is expected later this year. Lamontagne says the DEP approval would be a significant milestone for the project but notes that securing financing and power purchase agreements will also be critical in moving the project forward. He says the construction schedule has not yet been determined.
Currently, New England’s largest wind farm is the 132 MW Kibby project, which TransCanada Corp. completed in 2010. That project is also in Maine.
Wind VC Funding
Leaps During Q2
Wind sector venture capital (VC) funding picked up significantly during the second quarter of this year (Q2’13), amounting to $210 million compared to just $16 million last quarter, finds a new report from Mercom Capital Group.
The report says some large deals going to project developers in India helped with the quarterly increase. ReNew Power, an Indian wind project developer, attracted $135 million from Goldman Sachs, which raised its total investment in the company to $385 million so far.
NSL Renewable Power, also a project developer from India, received $60 million in funding from multiple investors. In two smaller funding deals, IDEOL, a designer and installer of foundations for offshore wind projects, raised $9.1 million, and $6.2 million was received by ROMO Wind, a wind technology company focused on improving wind turbine rotor function.
The report says announced large-scale project funding in Q2’13 totaled $3.2 billion in 24 deals compared to $6.2 billion in 29 deals in Q1’13. There were a total of 42 investors that participated in project funding deals in the second quarter.
In addition, there were six merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in Q2’13, amounting to $328 million. The report says the top M&A transaction was the acquisition of Salus Fundos de Investimento em Participacoes by Copel for about $128 million.
PNE WIND purchased a 54% share in WKN from former shareholder Volker Friedrichsen Beteiligungs for about $122 million. Aksa Energy acquired a 93% stake in Kapidag Ruzgar Enerjisi Elektrik Uretim for approximately $67 million. Marmen, a machining, fabrication and mechanical assembly company, acquired a wind tower plant from Broadwind Energy, an independent services provider, for approximately $11.7 million. The report says Makani Power was acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount, reportedly for its secret Google X skunkworks laboratory, and Urban Wind acquired Myriad Wind for an undisclosed amount.
There was significant project acquisition activity in Q2’13, the report continues. Thirty-six project acquisitions took place during the quarter, the highest in terms of number of transactions since 2010. There have been 53 project acquisitions year-to-date, compared to 72 in all of last year.
“The strong project acquisition activity shows how wind has evolved into a mature and mainstream energy source and an attractive investment for both private and public firms alike,” comments Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.
The report says most of the project acquirers in the second quarter were investment funds. Allianz Capital Partners acquired three projects in the quarter, followed by Enel Green Power, John Laing and Lukerg Renew with two each.
The largest project acquisition by amount was utility PG&E’s acquisition of Puget Sound Energy’s 267 MW Lower Snake River Phase II Wind Project for $535 million, followed by Scottish and Southern Energy’s acquisition of the 99 MW Dunmaglass Wind Project from Renewable Energy Systems for $305 million.
Palisade Investment Partners and Northleaf Capital Partners acquired 75% of the 111 MW Waterloo Wind Project from EnergyAustralia for $227 million. Romania’s Lukerg Renew acquired the 70 MW Gebeleisis Wind Project from Vestas for $144 million, while Danish energy company SE and Denmark’s Pension Fund Administrator acquired the Danish onshore wind business (196 MW) of DONG Energy for $133 million.
Of the disclosed transactions in Q2’13, the report says there were 15 investment funds that acquired wind projects, eight project developers, six independent producers and four utilities.
Va. Offshore Wind
Lease Auction Set
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced it will hold a second competitive lease sale for renewable energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The auction, scheduled to take place on Sept. 4, will offer nearly 112,800 acres offshore Virginia for commercial wind energy leasing.
According to BOEM, the wind energy area offshore Virginia will be auctioned as a single lease and has the potential to support more than 2 GW of wind generation. The area is composed of 19 full OCS blocks and 13 sub-blocks.
BOEM says the area available for auction is identical to the one announced in the proposed sale notice that was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 3, 2012. The agency has pre-qualified the following eight offshore wind developers to participate in the upcoming lease sale:
- Apex Virginia Offshore Wind LLC;
- Virginia Electric and Power Co. (Dominion Virginia Power);
- Energy Management Inc.;
- EDF Renewable Development Inc.;
- Fishermen’s Energy LLC;
- Iberdrola Renewables Inc.;
- Sea Breeze Energy LLC; and
- Orisol Energy U.S. Inc.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has denied a settlement agreement between Fishermen’s Energy and the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel (DRC), causing the developer to push back the planned commercial operation date for its pilot project.
The BPU’s decision represents a major blow for Fishermen’s Energy, which is planning to use New Jersey’s offshore renewable energy certificates (ORECs) to support the financing and construction of its Atlantic City Windfarm, a 25 MW pilot project located off the coast of Atlantic City.
The ORECs are part of the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA), which was introduced as part of Gov. Chris Christie’s Energy Master Plan.
The act directs the BPU to develop an OREC program to support at least 1,100 MW of generation from qualified offshore wind projects. OWEDA also authorizes the BPU to accept applications for qualified offshore wind projects, sets forth the criteria to be used by the BPU in reviewing the projects’ applications and authorizes OWEDA to provide up to $100 million in tax credits for qualified wind energy facilities in wind energy zones.
According to a BPU spokesperson, the staff took issue with certain elements of the Fishermen’s Energy proposal. To meet OWEDA criteria, applicants – among other provisions – must submit a complete application, demonstrate access to financing and prove that the project provides net economic benefits for the state.
The spokesperson says BPU staff were concerned about a $19.2 million shortfall that New Jersey ratepayers would be forced to shoulder if federal incentives, such as the investment tax credit or grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, do not materialize.
The DRC, which represents ratepayers in the setting of electricity rates, initially opposed the Fishermen’s project, saying it was too costly. However, in a $187 million deal reached with the developer, the settlement featured a reduction in the wind farm’s projected rates, therefore lowering costs and lessening potential impact to ratepayers.
“Fishermen’s Energy is very disappointed by the N.J. Board of Public Utilities’ decision to not approve the settlement,” said Chris Wissemann, CEO of Fishermen’s Energy, in a statement. The developer also says it plans to continue working with the BPU to help make the project successful.
Jim Lanard, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, says the two parties could still resolve their issues.
“While the N.J. Board of Public Utilities rejected a set of stipulations between Fishermen’s Energy and the Rate Council, the board itself has directed its staff to continue discussions with Fishermen’s,” he tells NAW. “This is a good sign and gives both parties the opportunity to find common ground. Fishermen’s has made significant progress since its first submission to the board, and the gap between the parties can be closed.”
Nonetheless, rather than achieving a commercial operation date in 2014 – which the project developer had hoped – Fishermen’s is delaying the expected date of commercial operation until fall 2015.
If the pilot project is successful, Fishermen’s Energy intends to build a larger offshore wind farm, Fishermen’s Offshore New Jersey, a 330 MW wind farm located in federal waters.
N.Y. Offshore Wind
Calling it “a critical first step,” the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) released a study showing how offshore wind located off its coasts can greatly improve the state’s ocean-based economy.
According to the NYSDOS, the results of a 154-page Offshore Atlantic Ocean Study are expected to lay the groundwork for selecting offshore areas where wind development could be most suitable and appropriate.
At 8.5 m/s, the wind resource located off of New York in the Atlantic Ocean is relatively strong. Additionally, the resource is close to load centers, and commercially available technology currently exists to generate and transmit electricity from offshore wind resources to New York’s electric grid.
Taking advantage of this renewable resource could help New York State reduce its dependency on fossil fuels while meeting a growing energy demand. In addition, offshore wind could bring new economic development opportunities to New York industries involved in the siting, permitting, manufacturing, construction, operations or decommissioning activities necessary to build, maintain and retire an offshore wind energy facility.
“The [study] is a critical first step as New York State seeks to plan for current and future uses of the Atlantic Ocean,” says Cesar A. Perales, New York secretary of state. “Our coastal communities rely on a vibrant ocean economy, and this information will help protect existing industries while we explore new economic opportunities, such as the development of offshore wind capabilities.”
Drawing from four individual reports created for the NYSDOS to support offshore ocean planning efforts, the information will serve as a foundation for future site assessment and other relevant research activities, reducing the potential for wasted and duplicative research efforts, saving time and money.
The study includes research critical to advancing one of the action items of Gov. Cuomo’s “New York Energy Highway Blueprint,” which outlines recommendations for utilizing public-private partnerships to help transport New York’s aging energy infrastructure into the future.
The study will provide guidance to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management – which regulates ocean waters beyond three miles – to show New York impacts for any proposed leasing of federal waters for siting of offshore wind projects.
The study is also expected to shape the current federal review of the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project lease application, filed in September 2011 by the New York Power Authority on behalf of the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative, which also includes Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority. w
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First Wind Proposes New England’s Largest Wind Farm
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