Citing credit woes, Noble Environmental Power LLC of Essex Connecticut announced last week that all work was suspended at its 14-turbine wind farm under construction in Bellmont, New York. The turbine foundations have already been laid at the site and Noble indicated work would not resume until summer 2009. Contractors for Noble have informed Windaction.org that, while the announcement was sudden, there were indications the firm was experiencing cash flow problems months ago.
Earlier this year, Noble filed plans to raise $375 million in an initial public offering (IPO). The share sale was to be underwritten by now bankrupt Lehman Brothers. Public reports of the IPO stated the company showed no revenue on its income statement and was nearly $1 billion in debt. The company has 282 megawatts in operating wind power projects in the U.S.
Noble Environmental, along with First Wind (formerly UPC Wind), is under investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for alleged improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices. It is reported the company's credit woes partially stem from reluctance of financiers to invest in a company under investigation.
Noble's problems are not just legal and financial, they're also technical. The company is experiencing problems with its Clinton and Ellenburg wind parks erected in Clinton County NY and online earlier this year. None of the 121 turbines have been operational for the last two weeks. The root cause of the shutdown has not been announced.
In these troubling economic times, Windaction.org strongly encourages communities and landowners involved with wind farm development to look out for themselves by ensuring decommissioning plans are filed prior to commencement of any construction. Such plans should be backed with bonds sufficient to cover the costs of restoring a site to its original condition and the full removal of scrap materials. Note, given dramatic fluctuations in scrap value and hauling costs, decommissioning plans should never allow the value of the scrap to be deducted from the projected turbine dismantling costs.