It’s been 15 years since Jim Spencer started a small solar energy company in New York that would turn into Pittsburgh’s biggest wind developer and, on Thanksgiving Day, be sold to the world’s biggest asset manager.
Strip District-based EverPower Wind Holdings Inc. closed a deal with BlackRock last week, agreeing to sell its seven wind farms across five states. Four of them are in Cambria and Somerset counties.
Mr. Spencer, who confirmed the sale on Sunday, said the interest EverPower got when it put itself on the market in March highlights the strength and maturity of the renewable energy industry, despite recent political waves in Washington to strip it of certain tax incentives and prop up fossil fuel rivals.
“I think people sort of think that, ‘Yeah, there might be some bumps in the road because [President Donald] Trump is talking about bringing coal back’ but they really don’t see it as changing the course towards decarbonization,” Mr. Spencer said. “Despite everything this administration has been saying, utilities are still retiring coal plants and they’re still purchasing renewables.”
In 2009, a London-based private equity firm, Terra Firma Capital Partners, bought a controlling stake in EverPower and a few years ago, it looked as if Terra was gearing up to spin out EverPower as its own publicly traded company — a yieldco. But it never materialized.
When EverPower started looking for a suitor earlier this year, it had hoped to sell itself whole — both its current projects and its sizable portfolio of future developments. But it turned out to be a better deal to split the assets, Mr. Spencer said. He said the company is also in the final stages of negotiating a sale of its project pipeline to a European utility that is looking to enter the U.S. market.
“It’s just the way the market is,” he said. “Operating renewable energy assets now are a very attractive asset class for these big funds [looking for stable revenue] — even better than real estate.”
According to New York-based BlackRock’s website, it currently manages four wind projects in Texas and New Mexico and several in Europe. The money to buy EverPower will likely come from BlackRock’s latest $1.65 billion renewable energy fund, which closed in June.
Mr. Spencer expects BlackRock will retain the dozen and a half employees who run EverPower’s wind farms.
He declined to disclose the sale price. BlackRock declined to comment on Sunday.