Northeast wind power developer forms partnership


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Massachusetts-based wind energy developer with extensive operations in Maine has formed a partnership with two Canadian utilities to own, operate and construct large-scale wind farms in the Northeast.

First Wind Holdings LLC, Emera Inc. and Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. are forming an operating company that will include First Wind’s wind projects in Maine,Vermont and New York, the companies announced over the weekend.

Under the agreement, First Wind will own 51 percent of the operating company while Emera and Algonquin will form a separate venture called Northeast Wind that will own the remaining 49 percent. Northeast Wind is paying $333 million for its share of the company, which includes a $150 million loan to the operating company.

First Wind is the region’s largest wind developer, with three operating projects in Maine and two in New York and two more under construction in Maine and Vermont. When operating at their full 370-megawatt capacity, the projects will be able to generate enough power annually for 150,000 homes, according to First Wind.

“Certainly this transaction will give us the capacity to continue our development and keep the ball moving forward,” said First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne.
Emera, which is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a power generator and distributor with holdings throughout the Northeast, in the Caribbean and in California. It owns Bangor Hydro Electric Co., which is Maine’s second largest power company.

Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. is a renewable energy and water utility based in Oakville, Ontario.

The partnership brings together First Wind’s wind development know-how, Emera’s financial strength and marketing abilities, and Algonquin’s experience with renewable energy, company officials said. First Wind will serve as the managing partner in the venture and operate the projects.

“This partnership will bring help bring further growth of well-sited and well-run wind energy projects in the region in the future,” First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor said in a statement.

The agreement comes at a time when Boston-based First Wind has been facing questions about its finances.

Late last year it canceled plans to go public after its stock failed to gain the price the company was seeking. A pending lawsuit filed by a Maine group, Friends of Lincoln Lakes, alleges that First Wind has failed to show adequate financial capability for its project now under construction in the Lincoln, Maine, area.

Jonathan Carter, director of the Forest Ecology Network and a longtime critic of large-scale mountaintop wind turbine projects in Maine, said the partnership is a “shell game” with corporations using federal grants and tax breaks to promote “industrial” wind projects. The projects are destroying parts of Maine’s wilderness without reducing energy costs or pollution, he said.

“It’s a house of cards, and like Enron it’s going to collapse,” Carter said.