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Terra Firma, the private equity firm chaired by well-known British investor Guy Hands, has acquired EverPower Wind Holdings for an estimated $350 million — indicating significant European interest in U.S. wind developments. German and Spanish companies — significantly Fotowatio — have staked out U.S. solar opportunities with less emphasis on wind.
Headquartered in Manhattan, EverPower has wind farms in the works in Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania (including one that’s already operational there) and New York state. Wind developments, considering the amount of turbines necessary for commercial scale, are known for being incredibly capital intensive, requiring bigwig investors that can pony up hundreds of millions at a time. That’s why players like Berkshire Hathaway have dominated the space so far, with private equity firms playing a minor role.
The economic downturn took its toll on wind largely for this reason — fewer investors were able to come up with the cash — causing several wind farms to downsize their plans, and stunting IPOs for market leaders like First Wind Holdings and Noble Environmental Power. Even T. Boone Pickens, the famous oilman turned renewable energy evangelist, has had to put a lid on his wind projects until next year.
This climate, now slowly rebounding as prices for wind equipment fall, is what makes Terra Firma’s purchase significant. It stands to reason that Obama’s emphasis on renewables, backed up by hefty stimulus package financing, would kick start things for wind, but it’s interesting that this strategy will also benefit overseas interests keeping a close eye on the government’s purse strings. Not that EverPower was a purely American holding beforehand — its majority stake owner was Good Energies, a Dutch investment firm, which will continue to invest in the company.
EverPower says it plans to use the money to refinance a loan and keep its project pipeline chugging along. The $350 million figure came from a source close to the matter, according to the Wall Street Journal, and has yet to be confirmed.
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