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Wind industry delves into business detail

[O]ffshore wind power is all blue skies and clear sailing now that Delaware, Texas and Massachusetts have approved projects. New Jersey and Rhode Island are also evaluating offshore wind ventures, while utilities and developers in Georgia, Florida and California are researching technologies and site data. This week focused on two reality checks: A still-evolving regulatory scheme adapted from federal offshore oil and gas drilling overlaps state environmental and economic controls, posing a coordination challenge. ...As important, electric transmission connections and capacity are imperative to move power to utilities inland, and balance supply and demand.

The evolution of the Bluewater Wind deal may have looked like a dysfunctional cliffhanger to Delawareans, but it was a case study in success at the American Wind Energy Association workshop held this week in Wilmington.

It is, after all, a done deal and the 400-plus attendees from government, engineering, universities, suppliers, construction and environmental advocacy were there to pick their way through this new business and regulatory terrain. In hindsight, Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam credited the public nature of the Delaware process for working through the contentious negotiations.

That doesn't mean offshore wind power is all blue skies and clear sailing now that Delaware, Texas and Massachusetts have approved projects. New Jersey and Rhode Island are also evaluating offshore wind ventures, while utilities and developers in Georgia, Florida and California are researching technologies and site data.

This week focused on two reality checks: A still-evolving regulatory scheme adapted from federal offshore oil and gas drilling overlaps state environmental and economic controls, posing a coordination challenge. (Monday also was the deadline for... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The evolution of the Bluewater Wind deal may have looked like a dysfunctional cliffhanger to Delawareans, but it was a case study in success at the American Wind Energy Association workshop held this week in Wilmington.

It is, after all, a done deal and the 400-plus attendees from government, engineering, universities, suppliers, construction and environmental advocacy were there to pick their way through this new business and regulatory terrain. In hindsight, Bluewater President Peter Mandelstam credited the public nature of the Delaware process for working through the contentious negotiations.

That doesn't mean offshore wind power is all blue skies and clear sailing now that Delaware, Texas and Massachusetts have approved projects. New Jersey and Rhode Island are also evaluating offshore wind ventures, while utilities and developers in Georgia, Florida and California are researching technologies and site data.

This week focused on two reality checks: A still-evolving regulatory scheme adapted from federal offshore oil and gas drilling overlaps state environmental and economic controls, posing a coordination challenge. (Monday also was the deadline for comments to the U.S. Minerals Management Service about its draft offshore wind regulations and royalty schedule. And the wind industry regards the fees as too high.) As important, electric transmission connections and capacity are imperative to move power to utilities inland, and balance supply and demand.

Then there were the bankers, who cautioned that while offshore wind projects have huge growth potential, their financing is structured conservatively to account for more risks and uncertainty.

Tom Emmons heads the New York branch of the German HSH Nordbank, the leading lender in clean energy globally. The U.S. branch, with $250 billion in assets, did $1.4 billion in business in onshore wind here in 2006. In Europe, HSH Nordbank has backed the Thanet project in the Thames estuary in England, and the Q7 wind farm in deep water off the Netherlands.

Emmons said more than half the cost of offshore wind projects is installation, with multiple contracts for equipment, construction, marine vessels and crews. So it doesn't make sense to do a small offshore project, he said, naming a minimum of $100 million on up to $1 billion.

However, because of the harsher ocean environment, uncertain durability of equipment exposed there, and potential liabilities from multiple contractors, banks expect big equity stakes from developers, along with more cash reserves for cost overruns. While onshore wind projects might be leveraged from 70 percent to 90 percent, offshore wind won't be, he said. Loan terms will also be shorter, but lenders also commit to making extra loans to cover contingencies.

Emmons said big projects need "clubs" of multiple banks as well. In Europe, export banks have gotten involved.

"Lenders are on a learning curve right now," Emmons said, as they were with liquefied natural gas and deep-water oil extraction. "We will get up to speed" as wind energy develops.

Jerome Guillet, the energy chief of Dexia Credit Local in Paris, echoed those points. Dexia has been financing wind power since 2002 and is also invested in Q7 off the Netherlands and C-Power off Belgium.

However, he said, "the syndication market is dead" in the global credit market, which hampers billion-dollar deals. Developers are going to have to get more banks "to do the first deal."

Guillet also advised letting banks review contracts early, and clearly spelling out project details, warranties and liabilities - down to the names of personnel, equipment and ships.

Bankers expect coordination and management competence in these big offshore wind farm construction projects, he said.


Source: http://www.delawareonline.c...

SEP 13 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/17068-wind-industry-delves-into-business-detail
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