Foreign firms show continued interest in U.S. wind projects

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A large Texas wind farm will come under Greek ownership under terms announced by the project’s primary developer, while an existing wind project in Minnesota will shift ownership from one Qatari firm to another, pending approval by U.S. regulators.

The 380-megawatt Fluvanna Wind Energy Project, to be built in Scurry County, Texas, about 70 miles south of Lubbock, gained new financial security as developer Tri Global Energy LLC announced it had sold the project to Terna Energy SA of Athens, Greece, for an undisclosed sum.

The Fluvanna project will be Terna’s second U.S. wind energy project and its largest to date, spanning 32,000 acres of leased farm and ranch land in West Texas. The company also owns a 138 MW wind farm in Elmore County, Idaho, that has been in operation since 2012.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. PJSC (TAQA) told U.S. regulators that it intends to sell its 50 percent interest in a 205 MW wind farm in southern Minnesota. The Lakefield Wind Project, consisting of 137 turbines across roughly 20,000 acres of Jackson County farmland, has been operational since 2011.

Under the proposed deal, TAQA’s 50 percent ownership interest in Lakefield would be sold for an unspecified amount to Nebras Power QSC, another Qatari firm focused on power generation and water salination projects. A tentative deal was struck between the two companies in September, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filings, and could be finalized in early 2017.

TAQA is a diversified company with fossil, hydro and renewable energy assets in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, India and North America. Allan Virtanen, a TAQA spokesman, said in an email that the company initiated the Lakefield sale earlier this year after deciding the wind project was not central to the company’s operations.

All of the Lakefield project’s generation is contracted to Indianapolis Power & Light Co. under a long-term power purchase agreement, according to company filings with FERC.

The Fluvanna wind project was spearheaded by Dallas-based Tri Global Energy under the firm’s proprietary business model, called the “Wind Force Plan,” which provides landowners and local investors an ownership stake in turbines sited on their land.

John Billingsley, Tri Global’s chairman and CEO, said in a recent statement that the deal with Terna “will help us deliver on our promise to positively impact the projects’ host community economies through employment opportunities and tax revenues; generate a substantial rate of return to local community investors; and generate a second source of income in the form of wind royalties for farmers and landowners.”

Terna Energy currently has 885 MW of licensed renewable energy plants operating or under development in Europe and the United States. The company plans to develop an additional 1,000 MW in the coming years.