Joining forces to expand wind power

June 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Ownership of the wind farm along the Lake Erie shoreline in Lackawanna and Hamburg has been shifted to a new joint venture between the developer of the Steel Winds project and a Canadian energy company.

First Wind, the Massachusetts-based wind energy company that built the 35-megawatt Steel Winds project, will own a 51 percent stake in the new joint venture that will run the local wind farm and seven others that it operates in New York, Vermont and Maine. Emera Inc., a Canadian energy company, is paying $212 million for a 49 percent stake in the new venture, called Northeast Wind Partners.

The First Wind projects that are being shifted to the joint venture have a total generating capacity of 385 megawatts. First Wind will continue to operate all of the wind farms involved in the new company.

John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesman, said the deal will not have any impact on the operations or the staffing of the Steel Winds project. First Wind has about 100 operations, maintenance and development staff at the eight projects that are now part of Northeast Wind.

“The operations at Steel Winds, and all our projects, will remain the same,” Lamontagne said. “Emera basically purchased 49 percent of our Northeast assets, but First Wind continues to operate the projects as it has.”

In addition to the Steel Winds project, the 125-megawatt Cohocton Wind project in the Town of Cohocton in Steuben County also was transferred to the joint venture.

The Steel Winds project was built in two phases, with the most recent segment involving six turbines with a generating capacity of up to 15 megawatts that began operation earlier this year. Those new turbines joined eight others, with a total listed capacity of 20 megawatts, that began operating in Lackawanna in 2007.

In all, the 14 turbines in the Steel Winds project, spread out on a site that stretches between Hamburg and Lackawanna, can generate up to 35 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 9,000 homes.

The initial phase of the project cost an estimated $40 million, and the most recent expansion added $25 million to $30 million to the project’s overall price tag.

The deal gives First Wind an infusion of new cash, as well as a $150 million loan from Emera, that it plans to use to invest in other wind projects in the Northeast. First Wind two years ago had hoped to sell stock through an initial public offering, but withdrew the IPO in November 2010 because of “unfavorable” market conditions.

“This is an exciting partnership for First Wind that will allow us to invest in new, well-sited and well-run wind projects that deliver clean energy to homes and businesses across the Northeast,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind, in a statement. “We see an enormous opportunity to continue to deliver cost-effective clean, renewable energy so that Northeastern states can meet their important renewable portfolio standards.”

First Wind also has the ability to transfer other projects, with a combined generating capacity of up to 1,200 megawatts, to the joint venture in the future.

drobinson@buffnews.comnull

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