Article

Experts: Wind farm prospects look bleak

Delaware's Bluewater Wind will have a tough time raising the $1 billion it needs to build an offshore energy farm now that its principal backer has been financially crippled, experts said Monday. Investment groups that might have made a play for Bluewater in years past have disappeared or are "teetering on nationalization," said Brian Yerger, an alternative energy analyst and researcher with Jesup & Lamont Securities Corp. "The economics are going to have to work out perfectly right for somebody to come in and spend probably $1 billion plus" to build the wind farm."

Raising $1 billion unlikely in today's economic conditions, analysts say

Delaware's Bluewater Wind will have a tough time raising the $1 billion it needs to build an offshore energy farm now that its principal backer has been financially crippled, experts said Monday.

Investment groups that might have made a play for Bluewater in years past have disappeared or are "teetering on nationalization," said Brian Yerger, an alternative energy analyst and researcher with Jesup & Lamont Securities Corp.

"The economics are going to have to work out perfectly right for somebody to come in and spend probably $1 billion plus" to build the wind farm," said Yerger, summing up the views expressed by several industry analysts on Monday who asked that they not be identified. "That's a hard number to come by in today's market. To say that the credit market is exceedingly difficult is an understatement."

Bluewater was shaken Friday by the announcement that its owner, Australia-based Babcock & Brown, had agreed under pressure to sell down assets over two to three years -- with an outright takeover by administrators still a possibility as early as this week.

Delmarva Power already has signed a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Raising $1 billion unlikely in today's economic conditions, analysts say

Delaware's Bluewater Wind will have a tough time raising the $1 billion it needs to build an offshore energy farm now that its principal backer has been financially crippled, experts said Monday.

Investment groups that might have made a play for Bluewater in years past have disappeared or are "teetering on nationalization," said Brian Yerger, an alternative energy analyst and researcher with Jesup & Lamont Securities Corp.

"The economics are going to have to work out perfectly right for somebody to come in and spend probably $1 billion plus" to build the wind farm," said Yerger, summing up the views expressed by several industry analysts on Monday who asked that they not be identified. "That's a hard number to come by in today's market. To say that the credit market is exceedingly difficult is an understatement."

Bluewater was shaken Friday by the announcement that its owner, Australia-based Babcock & Brown, had agreed under pressure to sell down assets over two to three years -- with an outright takeover by administrators still a possibility as early as this week.

Delmarva Power already has signed a 25-year contract to buy an average 6 percent of its electricity from a 55- to 70-turbine wind farm that Bluewater wants to start building off Rehoboth Beach in 2012.

"They have, in their power purchase agreement with Delmarva, an asset that a lot of developers in this business don't have -- that's a customer," said Philip Cherry, a policy director for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

"I'm hopeful that Bluewater Wind gets bought by an investor who sees that [Delmarva contract] as an asset and they proceed with the project."

But in debates leading up to the deal with Delmarva, Bluewater cited Babcock & Brown's expertise and deep pockets as a strong point -- backing that others said could be hard to replace.

On the other hand, alternative energy appears to be gaining momentum across the economy as well as potential increases in federal support, Yerger said, with offshore wind especially promising along the nation's mid-Atlantic and New England coasts.

Delaware Public Service Commission Director Bruce Burcat said his agency would monitor Bluewater developments. Any agreements that change terms of the original contract price, he said, could require review by the commission.

"We're obviously going to monitor the situation," Burcat said.

PSC members and representatives of the executive and legislative branches authorized the Delmarva deal after months of debate.

Joe Rogalsky, Gov. Jack Markell's spokesman, said Markell had no comment on Bluewater's latest developments.

"The governor has been a huge supporter of and hopes the project is successful," Rogalsky said.

The contract allows for a change of Bluewater's ownership or an assignment of the project to another entity, with exceptions, Delmarva spokeswoman Bridget Shelton said.

"We looked at the contract in detail, and there are some changes in control rights that Bluewater has, but any transfer of ownership would have to be in compliance with the contract," Shelton said. Delmarva would have to provide written approval in many cases, but could not "unreasonably" block transfer to another party that can live up to the contract.

Matt Dallas, a Babcock & Brown spokesman in New York, said Bluewater was owned by the B&B parent company caught up in the sell-off, rather than subsidiaries that might try to break away and continue current operations. But he also said that asset sales could take two to three years.

Delmarva would have to provide written approval for a change in most cases, although purchase by a company with $10 billion or more in assets would clear automatically.

Bluewater originally wanted to build 200 wind turbines for a 600-megawatt wind farm on a 30-square-mile tract 11 to 17 miles east of Rehoboth Beach.

Debates over cost and other terms eventually whittled the plan down to an $800 million project with 55- to 70 turbines and a 200-megawatt maximum purchase in any hour. Wind speed variability would reduce annual sales to 63 megawatts per hour.

Bluewater would receive $2.76 billion from electricity sales over the 25-year life of the contract.


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

FEB 10 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18986-experts-wind-farm-prospects-look-bleak
back to top