Tailwinds Still Blowing for Americas Wind Power

Source: By Jonathan Shieber, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

As the U.S. looks to another record year for wind power installations, one large North American developer says that the market will continue to grow, but the U.S. could play less of a role.

In an interview with Dow Jones, Mike Garland, the chief executive of Pattern Energy, a wind power project developer backed by Riverstone Holdings, said there are still opportunities for expansion beyond the U.S. in Canada and even newer markets like Colombia and Chile, where his firm has just begun developing.

While Mr. Garland doesn’t think the industry will see a flood of new power purchase agreements and requests for proposals in the next two years, demand for new projects and the upgrade of existing wind power developments will mean a steady stream of business for wind developers.

“The growth of the economy is very good,” Mr. Garland said. “And as the economy grows, new [project] demand will be coming out and old demands [for projects] will be coming back.”

Indeed, Mr. Garland said that over the next four years his firm could develop as much as 1 gigawatt of new wind energy projects.

Much of that growth will come outside of the United States. “We have a nice backlog in Canada that will last the next two to three years,” Mr. Garland said. Meanwhile, Mr. Garland said he expected the U.S. market to remain flat, adding about 4 gigawatts to 5 gigawatts of new wind energy annually.

Pattern Energy is so certain of the rising demand coming in the markets that it operates that the firm is preparing to raise a corporate debt facility to finance its business opportunities. “We have enough capital to do all of our build-out that we’re planning currently,” said Mr. Garland. Any new projects might be developed through a mixture of the company’s cash flows and its corporate facilities.

Mr. Garland expects that the company will return to financial investors to seek additional new capital within the next year or two, he said.

In 2010, Pattern Energy closed an $800 million investment from Riverstone Holdings. The company was carved out of engineering and project management firm Babcock & Brown in 2009.

A March 2012 report from Pike Research indicated that the U.S. wind market will total more than $125 billion between 2011 and 2017, reaching 15% of the global market. The same report said Canada will reach 15 gigawatts of total wind capacity by 2017, with more than 400 megawatts of that power coming from offshore installations.