Resource Documents — latest additions
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
Author: Acoustic Group
A number of findings arise from the study and have been grouped as follows.
11.1 Non-acoustic findings
The following non-acoustic findings of the study are considered to be significant:
- The resident’s observations and identification of sensation (separately to vibration and noise) indicates that the major source of complaint from the operation of the turbines would appear to be related to sensation rather than noise or vibration.
- A significant sensation disturbance was found to be occurring when the turbines were seeking to start up, when there was apparent change in the power output of the wind farm in the order of 20% (being either an increase in power or a decrease in power), and the situation when the turbine has reached maximum power (normally wind above 15 m/s) and the wind was increasing in strength thereby requiring the pitch angle to be changed so as to de-power the turbines. The latter situation with excessive winds can occur for extensive periods at Cape Bridgewater with residents reporting that at times they have to leave the area to seek relief.
- For some residents experiencing adverse sensation effects the impact can be exacerbated by bending over, rather than standing, with the effect in some cases being reported as extremely severe and lasting for a few hours.
- With the wind farm not in operation the residents indicated noise, vibration and sensation are low in severity ratings.
- There are 2 residents that clearly have a greater sensitivity than the other residents. One resident, being hearing impaired, is able to identify noise that are below the standard hearing threshold levels and reported higher than normal severity with the wind farm shut down.
11.2 Acoustic findings
There are a significant number of acoustic based findings obtained from the study. Due to the complex interaction of various components of the study the findings have been grouped as follows.
- The use of dB(A) noise levels external to a dwelling did not correlate with internal noise levels or impacts that residents identified as coming from the wind farm.
- There is no correlation between the power output level of the wind farm versus the Danish dB(A) LF level (0.8 Hz to 160 Hz) determined inside residential dwellings. On an A-weighted basis the dB(A) LF level (extended down to 0.8Hz) has its major contribution from frequencies above 100 Hz.
- Ambient noise from waves from the ocean and wind direction was found to be relevant in terms of contributing to the overall A-weighted level for this wind farm and can affect any regression analysis method.
Other acoustic parameters, including infrasound
- Comparison of the dB(A) LF, dB(C) dB(Z) found the wind influenced the measured levels such that by the use of 1/3 octave measurements there is no mechanism to separate the wind farm component from the overall noise levels that include the wind.
- At none of the houses was an internal level above 85 dB(G) detected.
- If 85 dB(G) is taken as the hearing threshold of infrasound then the study has found no audible infrasound in any of the houses.
- The use of only 1/3 octave band information to compare infrasound generated by turbines and infrasound in the natural environment (when assessed either externally or internally) does not contain the required information to identify any difference. However when supplemented by narrow band analysis in the infrasound region the measurement results clearly shows a periodic pattern in the infrasound (the wind turbine signature) whilst the natural environment for infrasound has no such periodic patterns.
- When dealing with narrow band investigation of infrasound the presence of the wind turbine signature (blade pass frequency and multiple harmonics of that frequency) and a frequency of 31.5 Hz was regularly identified inside the dwellings and outside dwellings. The wind turbine signature does not exist when the turbines are not operating.
- It may be more appropriate to identify that at times the acoustic signature from a wind turbine exhibits “pressure pulses” as opposed to explicit tones in the infrasonic region.
- Monitoring on the wind farms itself revealed that in proximity to the turbines there was no significant infrasound when viewed in terms of narrow band periodic functions suggesting directivity of the source of the infrasound.
- The A-weighted level is found to vary (modulated/modulate) at the rate of the blade pass frequency.
- When dealing with a dB(A) level that modulates it should be expressed as either “modulation” or “modulation of the amplitude”.
- Amplitude modulation of 31.5 Hz at the blade pass frequency was detected near the turbines and at residential locations
- On a dB(A) basis the attenuation rate of 6 dB per doubling of distance appears to be valid for the A-weighted level of the turbines.
- For the infrasound region the attenuation rate is lower than the nominal 6 dB/doubling of distance assigned for audible noise.
- It is suggested that further investigation of attenuation in the infrasound region is best based upon a single turbine rather than a wind farm due to the influence of multiple turbines.
- Vibration in the ground recorded at residential properties reveals random surges in vibration when viewed in the time domain.
- Monitoring of vibration near the turbine towers indicates surges associated with wind gusts where a significant increase above the ambient vibration in the ground was recorded
- The same pattern of vibration surges was recorded at location moving out from the turbines and is similar to that recorded outside and inside house 88.
- The vibration surges described by some residents as disturbance during the shutdown could be attributed to wind gusts exciting resonances of the blades/towers and requires further investigation.
- There are limitations of the use of normal noise loggers to provide accurate results of dB(A) Leq and dB(A) L95, due to the noise floor of instrumentation and the relatively low noise levels inside such dwellings.
- Electrical interference/surges in mains, and very strong winds created some problems with data collection.
- The frequency response of the complete signal path should be verified to ensure the manufacture specifications are not comprised by the interaction components contained in the measurement system.
- On low and medium power settings the speed of the turbine rotors varies at a different rate to the wind whilst maintaining a relatively constant electrical power output.
- The operation of ventilation equipment in the turbine structures induces vibration into the tower (but at relatively low levels). Such equipment whilst having nominal operating speeds incorporates variable speed drives and gives rise to a range in vibration levels. Typical vibration frequencies recorded on towers as a result of the ventilation fan varies between 23 and 30 Hz.
- Monitoring in proximity to the towers over a number of hours found a significant variation in noise levels from the tower structure including the typical “aircraft that never lands” signal often quoted by residents. The noise appeared to change with loading on the turbine.
- The downward sweep of the turbine has a slightly higher level of mid band noise than the upward sweep of the turbine.
- When located on the upwind side of a turbine a maximum sound level occurs at about 2 o’clock.
- The Wind Turbine Signature that has been found at other wind farms is also evident at Cape Bridgewater.
- Measurements of infrasound levels before and after a series of full shutdowns identified the Wind Turbine Signature concept can be applied to the subject turbines at Cape Bridgewater.
- The disturbance experienced by specific local residents (for the resident’s sensation 5 observations) shows a trend line that was used to develop the dB(WTS).
11.3 Subjects of further investigation
As the basis of the study was to start from the complaints end of the equation, rather from a noise end, material/advice and comments are provided to assist others in further studies or an extension to this study in relation to wind farm operations.
- It is suggested that in expressing disturbance from this wind farm, rather than claiming disturbance is from noise or infrasound from wind farms, the primary issue of disturbance for the subject wind farm is related to sensation.
- One outcome of the study is the need for the determination of a sensation response curve that has to be related to the acoustic/vibration signature generated as a result of the operation of a wind farm. It is considered that a laboratory study is unlikely to reproduce the physical impact that occurs at or in dwellings in proximity to a wind farm.
- The presence of the discrete frequencies (by way of FFT analysis) of the blade pass frequencies (with multiple harmonics) and the 31.5 Hz tone identifies the operation of turbines in an acoustic environment (including wind) and overcomes some of the issues associated with general acoustic parameters.
- Whether the infrasound components (derived by the FFT analysis) trigger conscious or unconscious responses in individuals by of the individual frequencies, the pattern of the frequencies or modulation of those frequencies, is outside the limits of the team’s expertise but are factors that should be considered in any future medical studies.
- The survey methodology used for the Cape Bridgewater study can form the basis of surveys for the next step in investigating “wind farm noise” that would incorporate acoustic measurements with the medical studies.
- This study did not include any testing in relation to sleep disturbance or health effects. An exercise relating to balance was suggested as a result of observations. The outcome of that exercise is best addressed by persons qualified for such an assessment in that it is a relatively simple exercise to undertake – however the effect that occurred for some residents would not have them repeat the exercise.
During the course of the study there were significant issues in terms of instrumentation that requires for other researchers in this area identification of problems and the essential need for persons involved in the measurements of noise, and particular infrasound, in proximity to wind farm affected environments to utilise calibrated instrumentation covering the entire signal chain from the microphone (or pressure sensor) through to the read out. Reliance upon manufacturer’s data does not always cover the entire spectrum of concern, with an entire section of this study report addressing instrumentation issues that have been established during this study.
From the resident’s subjective observations a wind turbine signature has been derived that indicates the averaged unacceptable presence of sensation inside a dwelling (for those 6 residents) occurs at an level of 51 dB(WTS) – when assessed as rms values 400 lines for analysis range of 25 Hz. Utilising PSD values (400 line 25 Hz range) the unacceptable level for the 6 residents occurs at 61 dB(WTS).
Being the first study to document or to identify “sensation” associated with the wind farm and the wind turbine signature, it is noted that the sample data is small and has persons already affected by the “noise”. The findings must be considered as preliminary and warrants further detailed studies of the scientific rigour necessary for the purpose of confirming/verifying the suggestions for the use of the nominated dB(WTS) thresholds.
On the basis of a limited number of affected residents for the study, it is suggested that:
- for these residents the presence of “sensation” is the major impact;
- surveys of residents near other wind farms should utilise the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm survey method so as to include “sensation” in any investigations;
- the use of dB(A) or dB(C) for internal measurements of the wind farm does not separate the results from that generated by the wind – for residences that are directly exposed to the wind.
There is not enough data from this study to justify any change in regulation. However, the following matters are suggested for further investigation:
- the validity of the dB(WTS) and the appropriate threshold levels be the subject of further studies to provide the necessary scientific rigour for a threshold to protect against adverse impacts;
- examination of the use of the dB(WTS) index (both external and internal) to supplement the external dB(A) index currently used for wind farms;
- the use of the internal dB(WTS) method can assist in medical studies in that the internal dB(WTS) identifies the presence of energy from the operation of a wind farm. The dB(A) level measured inside dwellings is of no assistance in such studies;
- the use of an external dB(WTS) can overcome the limitations of the dB(A) method that can be influenced by extraneous sources (i.e. wind); and
- the issues of directivity and identification of the noise emission sources of a turbine relative to sound power testing at ground level be examined, particularly for the generation of infrasound. Whilst there are significant costs involved, further investigations are required (by the use of a crane or similar) to measure noise levels at the hub height and the top and bottom of the swept path for say 150 metres from the tower, including directivity testing at those heights around the turbine.
On the basis of a limited number of affected residents for the study, it is suggested that:
- for these residents the presence of “sensation” is the major impact;
- surveys of residents near other wind farms should utilise the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm survey method so as to include “sensation” in any investigations;
- the use of dB(A) or dB(C) for internal measurements of the wind farm does not separate the results from that generated by the wind – for residences that are directly exposed to the wind.
Download the original documents from the following links:
The Results of an Acoustic Testing Program – Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm
Appendices A to H
Appendices I to J
Appendices K to M
Appendices N to P
Appendices Q to S
Appendices T to V
Radio Victoria interviews:
Steven Cooper (principal, Acoustic Group)
Andrew Richards (executive manager, external affairs, Pacific Hydro)
Annie Gardner (resident)
Author: Nussbaum, D.S.; and Reinis, S.
[Abstract] A review of literature describing the effects of very low-frequeney sound on humans revealed a controversy between authors claiming that infrasound is very harmful to humans and those claiming that infrasound cannot engender any subjective or objective symptoms. This report shows that these discrepancies may be explained by individual variability in response to low-frequency sound.
An experiment was performed to determine whether some individuals are uniquely sensitive to infrasound. Three acoustic conditions were employed. These consisted of a control (amplifier hum) condition and two 8 Hz infrasound conditions: a high distortion signal and a low distortion signal. Subjects were grouped by their subjective responses.
No control subjects exposed to amplifier hum reported any adverse responses. The distribution of symptoms (headache and fatigue vs dizziness and nausea) between the high and low distortion groups was significantly different. In persons reporting symptoms, the higher level of harmonics was primarily associated with headache and fatigue, while reduction of harmonics primarily resulted in dizziness and nausea.
Subjects reporting dizziness and nausea were subjected to up to four additional sessions – two control, one low distortion, and one with only some harmonics without infrasound. These sessions showed that these symptoms were replicable and related only to the infrasound.
Multivariate and univariate analyses showed that the subjects reporting adverse symptoms can be distinguished from the other groups on the basis of heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure changes, gaze nystagmus, time estimation and mood scales but not EEG, p1ethysmography, TTS, a short-term memory task, Eysenek Personality Inventory, Cornell Medical Index or age.
The adverse responses of some individuals closely resemble motion sickness. Individua1 differences in the reaction to infrasound may then be explained by variability of inner-ear structure or central adaptive mechanisms.
D. S. Nussbaum and S. Reinis
Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo
Institute for Aerospace Studies, University of Toronto
UTIAS Report No. 282, January 1985
Author: Terraform Power
TerraForm Power, Inc.
Class A Common Stock
An investment in our Class A common stock involve[s] a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the risks described below, together with the financial and other information contained in this prospectus, before you decide to purchase shares of our Class A common stock. If any of the following risks actually occurs, our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flow and prospects could be materially and adversely affected. As a result, the trading price of our Class A common stock could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment in our Class A common stock.
Risks Related to the First Wind Acquisition
Completion of the First Wind Acquisition is subject to conditions and if these conditions are not satisfied or waived, the First Wind Acquisition will not be completed.
Completion of the First Wind Acquisition is subject to satisfaction or waiver of a number of conditions, including certain regulatory approvals. The closing of the First Wind Acquisition is not a condition precedent to, or condition subsequent of, any of the Acquisition Financing Transactions. Each party’s obligation to complete the First Wind Acquisition is subject to the satisfaction or waiver (to the extent permitted under applicable law) of certain other conditions, the accuracy of the representations and warranties of the other party under the First Wind Acquisition Agreement (subject to the materiality standards set forth in the First Wind Acquisition Agreement), the performance by the other party of its respective obligations under the First Wind Acquisition Agreement in all material respects and delivery of officer certificates by the other party certifying satisfaction of the preceding conditions.
The failure to satisfy all of the required conditions could delay the completion of the First Wind Acquisition for a significant period of time or prevent it from occurring. Any delay in completing the First Wind Acquisition could cause us not to realize some or all of the benefits that we expect to achieve if the First Wind Acquisition is successfully completed within its expected timeframe. The conditions to the closing of the First Wind Acquisition may not be satisfied or waived and the First Wind Acquisition may not be completed. Investors should not make an investment in the shares of Class A common stock offered hereby in reliance on the expectation that the First Wind Acquisition will be completed on the currently anticipated timeframe, or at all.
Integrating the assets we intend to acquire in the First Wind Acquisition may be more difficult, costly or time consuming than expected and the anticipated benefits of the First Wind Acquisition may not be realized.
Until the completion of the First Wind Acquisition, we will continue to operate independently from the assets to be acquired in the First Wind Acquisition. The success of the First Wind Acquisition, including anticipated benefits, will depend, in part, on our ability to successfully combine and integrate those assets with our existing operations. In addition, the acquisition of the wind projects represents a substantial change in the nature of our business, and we may not be able to adapt to such change in a timely manner, or at all. It is possible that the pendency of the First Wind Acquisition or the integration process could result in the loss of key employees, higher than expected costs, diversion of management attention and resources, the disruption of either company’s ongoing businesses or inconsistencies in standards, controls, procedures and policies that adversely affect the combined company’s ability to maintain relationships with customers, vendors and employees or to achieve the anticipated benefits of the First Wind Acquisition. If we experience difficulties with the integration process, the anticipated benefits of the First Wind Acquisition may not be realized fully or at all, or may take longer to realize than expected. Management continues to refine its integration plan, which may vary from plans previously disclosed. These integration matters could have an adverse effect during this transition period and for an undetermined period after completion of the First Wind Acquisition.
In connection with the First Wind Acquisition, we expect to incur significant additional indebtedness and may also assume certain of First Wind’s outstanding indebtedness, which could adversely affect us, including by decreasing our business flexibility, and will increase our interest expense.
We will have substantially increased indebtedness following completion of the First Wind Acquisition in comparison to our indebtedness on a recent historical basis, which could have the effect, among other things, of reducing our flexibility to respond to changing business and economic conditions and increasing our interest expense. We will also incur various costs and expenses associated with the financing. The amount of cash required to pay interest on our increased indebtedness following completion of the First Wind Acquisition, and thus the demands on our cash resources, will be greater than the amount of cash flow required to service our indebtedness prior to the transaction. The increased levels of indebtedness following completion of the First Wind Acquisition could also reduce funds available for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions and other general corporate purposes and may create competitive disadvantages for us relative to other companies with lower debt levels. If we do not achieve the expected benefits from the First Wind Acquisition, or if our financial performance after completion of the First Wind Acquisition does not meet current expectations, then our ability to service our indebtedness may be adversely impacted.
In connection with the debt financing for the First Wind Acquisition, we anticipate seeking ratings of our indebtedness from one or more nationally recognized statistical rating organizations. We may not achieve a particular rating or maintain a particular rating in the future. Our credit ratings may affect the cost and availability of future borrowings and our cost of capital.
Moreover, we may be required to raise substantial additional financing to fund working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other general corporate requirements. Our ability to arrange additional financing or refinancing will depend on, among other factors, our financial position and performance, as well as prevailing market conditions and other factors beyond our control. We may not be able to obtain additional financing or refinancing on terms acceptable to us or at all.
The agreements that will govern the senior unsecured notes we expect to issue in connection with the First Wind Acquisition, or any indebtedness of First Wind we may assume, are expected to contain various covenants that impose restrictions on us and certain of our subsidiaries that may affect our ability to operate our businesses.
The agreements that will govern the senior unsecured notes we expect to issue in connection with the First Wind Acquisition, or any indebtedness of First Wind we may assume, are expected to contain various affirmative and negative covenants that may, subject to certain significant exceptions, restrict our and certain of our subsidiaries ability to, among other things, have liens on our property, change the nature of our business, and/or acquire, merge or consolidate with any other person or sell or convey certain of our assets to any one person. Our and our subsidiaries ability to comply with these provisions may be affected by events beyond our control. Failure to comply with these covenants could result in an event of default, which, if not cured or waived, could accelerate our repayment obligations.
The First Wind Acquisition will involve substantial costs.
We have incurred, and expect to continue to incur, a number of non-recurring costs associated with the First Wind Acquisition. The substantial majority of non-recurring expenses will be comprised of transaction and regulatory costs related to the First Wind Acquisition. We continue to assess the magnitude of these costs, and additional unanticipated costs may be incurred in the First Wind Acquisition.
Risks Related to our Business
The Risk Factors below describe both the risks to our business as it currently exists and the risks to our business if the Acquisition Transactions are consummated.
Counterparties to our PPAs may not fulfill their obligations, which could result in a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Substantially all of the electric power generated by our current portfolio of projects is sold under long-term PPAs with public utilities or commercial, industrial or government end-users or is hedged pursuant to hedge agreements with investment banks and creditworthy counterparties. We expect the Call Right Projects will also have long-term PPAs. If, for any reason, any purchaser of power under these contracts is unable or unwilling to fulfill their related contractual obligations or if they refuse to accept delivery of power delivered thereunder or otherwise terminate such agreements prior to the expiration thereof, our assets, liabilities, business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow could be materially adversely affected. Furthermore, to the extent any of our power purchasers are, or are controlled by, governmental entities, legislative or other political action may impair the results we achieve from the corresponding facilities in our portfolio.
A portion of the revenues under the PPAs for the U.K. projects included in our portfolio are subject to price adjustments after a period of time. If the market price of electricity decreases and we are otherwise unable to negotiate more favorable pricing terms, our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow may be materially and adversely affected.
The PPAs for the U.K. projects included in our portfolio have fixed electricity prices for a specified period of time (typically four years), after which such electricity prices are subject to an adjustment based on the then current market price. While the PPAs with price adjustments specify a minimum price, the minimum price is significantly below the initial fixed price. The pricing for renewable obligation certificates, or “ROCs,” under the PPAs for the U.K. projects is fixed by U.K. laws or regulations for the entire term of the PPA. A decrease in the market price of electricity, including due to lower prices for traditional fossil fuels, could result in a decrease in the pricing under such contracts if the fixed-price period has expired, unless we are able to negotiate more favorable pricing terms. Any decrease in the price payable to us under our PPAs could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Certain of the PPAs for power generation projects in our portfolio and that we may acquire in the future contain or will contain provisions that allow the offtake purchaser to terminate the PPA or buy out a portion of the project upon the occurrence of certain events. If such provisions are exercised and we are unable to enter into a PPA on similar terms, in the case of PPA termination, or find suitable replacement projects to invest in, in the case of a buyout, our cash available for distribution could materially decline.
Certain of the PPAs for power generation projects in our portfolio and that we may acquire in the future allow the offtake purchaser to purchase all or a portion of the applicable project from us. For example, in connection with the PPA for the CAP project, the off-taker has, under certain circumstances, the right to purchase up to 40% of the project equity from us pursuant to a predetermined purchase price formula. If the off-taker of the CAP project exercises its right to purchase a portion of the project, we would need to reinvest the proceeds from the sale in one or more projects with similar economic attributes in order to maintain our cash available for distribution. Additionally, under the PPAs for the U.S. distributed generation projects, off-takers have the option to either (i) purchase the applicable solar photovoltaic system, typically five to six years after COD under such PPA, for a purchase price equal to the greater of a value specified in the contract or the fair market value of the project determined at the time of exercise of the purchase option, or (ii) pay an early termination fee as specified in the contract, terminate the contract and require the project company to remove the applicable solar photovoltaic system from the site. If we were unable to locate and acquire suitable replacement projects in a timely fashion it could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash available for distribution.
Additionally, certain of the PPAs associated with projects in our portfolio allow the offtake purchaser to terminate the PPA in the event certain operating thresholds or performance measures are not achieved within specified time periods, and we are therefore subject to the risk of counterparty termination based on such criteria for such projects. Certain of the PPAs associated with distributed generation projects also allow the offtaker to terminate the PPA by paying an early termination fee. In the event a PPA for one or more of our projects is terminated, it could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and cash available for distribution until we are able to replace the PPA on similar terms. We cannot provide any assurance that PPAs containing such provisions will not be terminated or, in the event of termination, we will be able to enter into a replacement PPA. Moreover, any replacement PPA may be on terms less favorable to us than the PPA that was terminated.
Most of our PPAs do not include inflation-based price increases.
In general, the PPAs that have been entered into for the projects in our portfolio and the Call Right Projects do not contain inflation-based price increase provisions. Certain of the countries in which we have operations, or that we may expand into in the future, have in the past experienced high inflation. To the extent that the countries in which we conduct our business experience high rates of inflation, thereby increasing our operating costs in those countries, we may not be able to generate sufficient revenues to offset the effects of inflation, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
A material drop in the retail price of utility-generated electricity or electricity from other sources could increase competition for new PPAs.
We believe that an end-user’s decision to buy clean energy from us is primarily driven by their desire to pay less for electricity, and is therefore sensitive to the cost of both other clean energy and conventional energy sources. Decreases in the retail prices of electricity supplied by utilities or other clean energy sources would harm our ability to offer competitive pricing and could harm our ability to sign new customers. The price of electricity from utilities could decrease for a number of reasons, including:
- the construction of a significant number of new power generation plants, including nuclear, coal, natural gas or renewable energy facilities;
- the construction of additional electric transmission and distribution lines;
- a reduction in the price of natural gas, including as a result of new drilling techniques or a relaxation of associated regulatory standards;
- energy conservation technologies and public initiatives to reduce electricity consumption; and
- the development of new clean energy technologies that provide less expensive energy.
A reduction in utility retail electricity prices would make the purchase of solar or wind energy less economically attractive. In addition, a shift in the timing of peak rates for utility-supplied electricity to a time of day when solar energy generation is less efficient could make solar energy less competitive and reduce demand. If the retail price of energy available from utilities were to decrease, we would be at a competitive disadvantage, we may be unable to attract new customers and our growth would be limited.
We are exposed to risks associated with the projects in our portfolio and the Call Right Projects that are newly constructed or are under construction.
Certain of the projects in our portfolio are still under construction. We may experience delays or unexpected costs during the completion of construction of these projects, and if any project is not completed according to specification, we may incur liabilities and suffer reduced project efficiency, higher operating costs and reduced cash flow. Additionally, the remedies available to us under the applicable engineering, procurement and construction, or “EPC,” contract may not sufficiently compensate us for unexpected costs and delays related to project construction. If we are unable to complete the construction of a project for any reason, we may not be able to recover our related investment. In addition, certain of the Call Right Projects are under construction and may not be completed on schedule or at all, in which case any such project would not be available for acquisition by us during the time frame we currently expect or at all. Since our primary growth strategy is the acquisition of new clean energy projects, including under the Support Agreement, a delay in our ability to acquire a Call Right Project could materially and adversely affect our expected growth.
In addition, our expectations for the operating performance of newly constructed projects and projects under construction are based on assumptions and estimates made without the benefit of operating history. However, the ability of these projects to meet our performance expectations is subject to the risks inherent in newly constructed power generation facilities and the construction of such facilities, including, but not limited to, degradation of equipment in excess of our expectations, system failures and outages. The failure of these facilities to perform as we expect could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow and our ability to pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock.
Certain of our PPAs and project-level financing arrangements include provisions that would permit the counterparty to terminate the contract or accelerate maturity in the event our Sponsor ceases to control or own, directly or indirectly, a majority of our company.
Certain of our PPAs and project-level financing arrangements contain change in control provisions that provide the counterparty with a termination right or the ability to accelerate maturity if a change of control consent is not received. These provisions are triggered in the event our Sponsor ceases to own, directly or indirectly, capital stock representing more than 50% of the voting power (which is equal to approximately 9% ownership) of all of our capital stock outstanding on such date, or, in some cases if our Sponsor ceases to be the majority owner, directly or indirectly, of the applicable project subsidiary. As a result, if our Sponsor ceases to control, or in some cases, own a majority of TerraForm Power, the counterparties could terminate such contracts or accelerate the maturity of such financing arrangements. The termination of any of our PPAs or the acceleration of the maturity of any of our project-level financing as a result of a change in control of TerraForm Power could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We may not be able to replace expiring PPAs with contracts on similar terms. If we are unable to replace an expired distributed generation PPA with an acceptable new contract, we may be required to remove the solar energy assets from the site or, alternatively, we may sell the assets to the site host.
We may not be able to replace an expiring PPA with a contract on equivalent terms and conditions, including at prices that permit operation of the related facility on a profitable basis. If we are unable to replace an expiring PPA with an acceptable new project revenue contract, the affected site may temporarily or permanently cease operations. In the case of a distributed generation project that ceases operations, the PPA terms generally require that we remove the assets, including fixing or reimbursing the site owner for any damages caused by the assets or the removal of such assets. The cost of removing a significant number of distributed generation projects could be material. Alternatively, we may agree to sell the assets to the site owner, but the terms and conditions, including price, that we would receive in any sale, and the sale price may not be sufficient to replace the revenue previously generated by the project.
First Wind’s Mars Hill project’s PPA is expiring in February 2015, and First Wind is currently negotiating for an extension of the PPA. If the PPA is not extended or replaced, Mars Hill may be able to sell into the wholesale markets administered by ISO New England Inc., or “ISO-NE,” only by building approximately 15 miles of transmission line, or buying firm transmission rights, if available. The Mars Hill PPA may not be extended or replaced, and the project may not be able to sell into the ISO-NE markets or may only be able to sell into the ISO-NE markets at costs that make such sales uneconomic.
Projects in the First Wind portfolio located in Maine have experienced curtailment issues which may adversely affect revenues.
First Wind’s Stetson and Rollins projects have experienced significant curtailment starting in February 2012 due to a combination of construction on the Maine Power Reliability Project, or “MPRP,” a large transmission upgrade project affecting generation and transmission throughout Maine and adjoining areas, and transmission export limits at the Keane Road transmission interface, or “Keane Road.” These projects in the aggregate have had curtailment of approximately 58 GWh for each of 2012 and 2013, attributable in the aggregate to each of the MPRP and Keane Road. First Wind currently expects the MPRP to be completed in 2015, although it may not be able to be completed on this timeline or at all. First Wind also is currently pursuing several different solutions that may help to eliminate the Keane Road issue in 2015, including implementation of (i) General Electric “Fast Stop” software/firmware, which is designed to detect system instability and shut down turbines when needed, (ii) various market efficiencies, with the cost absorbed by ISO-NE, and (iii) elective transmission upgrades with the cost absorbed by First Wind. Together with our Sponsor, we expect to continue to pursue these solutions after the closing of the First Wind Acquisition. However, such solutions may not ameliorate or eliminate the Keane Road curtailment issues.
The growth of our business depends on locating and acquiring interests in additional, attractive clean energy projects from our Sponsor and unaffiliated third parties at favorable prices.
Our primary business strategy is to acquire clean energy projects that are operational. We may also, in limited circumstances, acquire clean energy projects that are pre-operational. We intend to pursue opportunities to acquire projects from both our Sponsor and third parties. The following factors, among others, could affect the availability of attractive projects to grow our business:
- competing bids for a project, including from companies that may have substantially greater capital and other resources than we do;
- fewer third-party acquisition opportunities than we expect, which could result from, among other things, available projects having less desirable economic returns or higher risk profiles than we believe suitable for our business plan and investment strategy;
- our Sponsor’s failure to complete the development of (i) the Call Right Projects (and, if the First Wind Acquisition is consummated, the additional projects to which we expect to have call rights pursuant to the Intercompany Agreement), which could result from, among other things, permitting challenges, failure to procure the requisite financing, equipment or interconnection, or an inability to satisfy the conditions to effectiveness of project agreements such as PPAs, and (ii) any of the other projects in its development pipeline in a timely manner, or at all, in either case, which could limit our acquisition opportunities under the Support Agreement or the Intercompany Agreement; and our failure to exercise our rights under the Support Agreement or the Intercompany Agreement to acquire assets from our Sponsor.
We will not be able to achieve our target compound annual growth rate of CAFD per unit unless we are able to acquire additional clean energy projects at favorable prices.
Our acquisition strategy exposes us to substantial risks.
The acquisition of power generation assets is subject to substantial risks, including the failure to identify material problems during due diligence (for which we may not be indemnified post-closing), the risk of over-paying for assets (or not making acquisitions on an accretive basis), the ability to obtain or retain customers and, if the projects are in new markets, the risks of entering markets where we have limited experience. While we will perform our due diligence on prospective acquisitions, we may not be able to discover all potential operational deficiencies in such projects. The integration and consolidation of acquisitions requires substantial human, financial and other resources and may divert management’s attention from our existing business concerns, disrupt our ongoing business or not be successfully integrated. Future acquisitions may not perform as expected or that the returns from such acquisitions will support the financing utilized to acquire them or maintain them. As a result, the consummation of acquisitions may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow and ability to pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock.
In addition, the development of clean energy projects is a capital intensive, high-risk business that relies heavily on the availability of debt and equity financing sources to fund projected construction and other projected capital expenditures. As a result, in order to successfully develop a clean energy project, development companies, including our Sponsor, from which we may seek to acquire projects, must obtain at-risk funds sufficient to complete the development phase of their projects. We, on the other hand, must anticipate obtaining funds from equity or debt financing sources, including under our Term Loan or our revolving credit facility, or the “Revolver,” or from government grants in order to successfully fund and complete acquisitions of projects. Any significant disruption in the credit or capital markets, or a significant increase in interest rates, could make it difficult for our Sponsor or other development companies to successfully develop attractive projects as well as limit their ability to obtain project-level financing to complete the construction of a project we may seek to acquire, or may make it difficult for us to obtain the funding we require to acquire such projects. If our Sponsor or other development companies from which we seek to acquire projects are unable to raise funds when needed, or if we or they are unable to secure adequate financing, the ability to grow our project portfolio may be limited, which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to implement our growth strategy and, ultimately, our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We may not be able to effectively identify or consummate any future acquisitions on favorable terms, or at all. Additionally, even if we consummate acquisitions on terms that we believe are favorable, such acquisitions may in fact result in a decrease in cash available for distribution per Class A common share.
The number of future acquisition opportunities for renewable energy projects is limited. While our Sponsor has granted us the option to purchase the Call Right Projects and a right of first offer with respect to the ROFO Projects, we will compete with other companies for future acquisition opportunities. This may increase our cost of making acquisitions or cause us to refrain from making acquisitions at all. Some of our competitors for acquisitions are much larger than us with substantially greater resources. These companies may be able to pay more for acquisitions and may be able to identify, evaluate, bid for and purchase a greater number of assets than our resources permit.
>In addition, if we are unable to reach agreement with our Sponsor regarding the pricing of the Unpriced Call Right Projects, our acquisition opportunities may be more limited than we currently expect. In addition, if our Sponsor’s development of new projects slows, we also may have fewer opportunities to purchase projects from our Sponsor. If we are unable to identify and consummate future acquisitions, it will impede our ability to execute our growth strategy and limit our ability to increase the amount of dividends paid to holders of our Class A common stock.
Even if we consummate acquisitions that we believe will be accretive to CAFD per unit, those acquisitions may in fact result in a decrease in CAFD per unit as a result of incorrect assumptions in our evaluation of such acquisitions, unforeseen consequences or other external events beyond our control. Furthermore, if we consummate any future acquisitions, our capitalization and results of operations may change significantly, and stockholders will generally not have the opportunity to evaluate the economic, financial and other relevant information that we will consider in determining the application of these funds and other resources.
New projects being developed that we may acquire may need governmental approvals and permits, including environmental approvals and permits, for construction and operation. Any failure to obtain necessary permits could adversely affect our growth.
The design, construction and operation of clean energy projects is highly regulated, requires various governmental approvals and permits, including environmental approvals and permits, and may be subject to the imposition of related conditions that vary by jurisdiction. We cannot predict whether all permits required for a given project will be granted or whether the conditions associated with the permits will be achievable. The denial or loss of a permit essential to a project or the imposition of impractical conditions upon renewal could impair our sponsor’s ability to construct and our ability to operate a project. In addition, we cannot predict whether the permits will attract significant opposition or whether the permitting process will be lengthened due to complexities, legal claims or appeals. Delays in the review and permitting process for a project can impair or delay our ability to acquire a project or increase the cost such that the project is no longer attractive to us.
Our ability to grow and make acquisitions with cash on hand may be limited by our cash dividend policy.
As discussed in “Cash Dividend Policy,” our dividend policy is to cause Terra LLC to distribute approximately 85% of CAFD each quarter and to rely primarily upon external financing sources, including the issuance of debt and equity securities and, if applicable, borrowings under our Term Loan or our Revolver, to fund our acquisitions and growth capital expenditures (which we define as costs and expenses associated with the acquisition of project assets from our Sponsor and third parties and capitalized expenditures on existing projects to expand capacity). We may be precluded from pursuing otherwise attractive acquisitions if the projected short-term cash flow from the acquisition or investment is not adequate to service the capital raised to fund the acquisition or investment, after giving effect to our available cash reserves. See “Cash Dividend Policy—Our Ability to Grow our Business and Dividend.”
We intend to use a portion of the CAFD generated by our project portfolio to pay regular quarterly cash dividends to holders of our Class A common stock. Our initial quarterly dividend was set at $0.2257 per share of Class A common stock, or $0.9028 per share on an annualized basis. We established our initial quarterly dividend based upon a target payout ratio by Terra LLC of approximately 85% of projected annual CAFD. As such, our growth may not be as fast as that of businesses that reinvest their available cash to expand ongoing operations. To the extent we issue additional equity securities in connection with any acquisitions or growth capital expenditures, the payment of dividends on these additional equity securities may increase the risk that we will be unable to maintain or increase our per share dividend. There are no limitations in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation (other than a specified number of authorized shares) on our ability to issue equity securities, including securities ranking senior to our common stock. The incurrence of bank borrowings or other debt by Terra Operating LLC or by our project-level subsidiaries to finance our growth strategy will result in increased interest expense and the imposition of additional or more restrictive covenants which, in turn, may impact the cash distributions we distribute to holders of our Class A common stock.
Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition and ability to operate our business, including restricting our ability to pay cash dividends or react to changes in the economy or our industry.
As of September 30, 2014, we had approximately $299.3 million of indebtedness and an additional $140.0 million available for future borrowings under our Revolver. In addition, we expect to incur a significant amount of additional debt in connection with the Acquisition Transactions. Our substantial debt could have important negative consequences on our financial condition, including:
- increasing our vulnerability to general economic and industry conditions;
- requiring a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to be dedicated to the payment of principal and interest on our indebtedness, thereby reducing our ability to pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock or to use our cash flow to fund our operations, capital expenditures and future business opportunities;
- limiting our ability to enter into or receive payments under long-term power sales or fuel purchases which require credit support;
- limiting our ability to fund operations or future acquisitions;
- restricting our ability to make certain distributions with respect to our capital stock and the ability of our subsidiaries to make certain distributions to us, in light of restricted payment and other financial covenants in our credit facilities and other financing agreements;
- exposing us to the risk of increased interest rates because certain of our borrowings, which may include borrowings under our Revolver, are at variable rates of interest;
- limiting our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, including collateral postings, capital expenditures, debt service requirements, acquisitions and general corporate or other purposes; and
- limiting our ability to adjust to changing market conditions and placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors who have less debt.
Our Revolver and Term Loan contain financial and other restrictive covenants that limit our ability to return capital to stockholders or otherwise engage in activities that may be in our long-term best interests. Our inability to satisfy certain financial covenants could prevent us from paying cash dividends, and our failure to comply with those and other covenants could result in an event of default which, if not cured or waived, may entitle the related lenders to demand repayment or enforce their security interests, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. In addition, failure to comply with such covenants may entitle the related lenders to demand repayment and accelerate all such indebtedness.
The agreements governing our project-level financing contain, and we expect project financings incurred or assumed on future projects we acquire to contain, financial and other restrictive covenants that limit our project subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions to us or otherwise engage in activities that may be in our long-term best interests. The project-level financing agreements generally prohibit distributions from the project entities to us unless certain specific conditions are met, including the satisfaction of certain financial ratios. Our inability to satisfy certain financial covenants may prevent cash distributions by the particular project(s) to us and our failure to comply with those and other covenants could result in an event of default which, if not cured or waived may entitle the related lenders to demand repayment or enforce their security interests, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, failure to comply with such covenants may entitle the related lenders to demand repayment and accelerate all such indebtedness. If we are unable to make distributions from our project-level subsidiaries, it would likely have a material adverse effect on our ability to pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock.
If our subsidiaries default on their obligations under their project-level indebtedness, this may constitute an event of default under our Term Loan and Revolver, and we may be required to make payments to lenders to avoid such default or to prevent foreclosure on the collateral securing the project-level debt. If we are unable to or decide not to make such payments, we would lose certain of our solar energy projects upon foreclosure.
Our subsidiaries incur, and we expect will in the future incur, various types of project-level indebtedness. Non-recourse debt is repayable solely from the applicable project’s revenues and is secured by the project’s physical assets, major contracts, cash accounts and, in many cases, our ownership interest in the project subsidiary. Limited recourse debt is debt where we have provided a limited guarantee, and recourse debt is debt where we have provided a full guarantee, which means if our subsidiaries default on these obligations, we will be liable directly to those lenders, although in the case of limited recourse debt only to the extent of our limited recourse obligations. To satisfy these obligations, we may be required to use amounts distributed by our other subsidiaries as well as other sources of available cash, reducing our cash available to execute our business plan and pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock. In addition, if our subsidiaries default on their obligations under non-recourse financing agreements this may, under certain circumstances, result in an event of default under our Term Loan and Revolver, allowing our lenders to foreclose on their security interests.
Even if that is not the case, we may decide to make payments to prevent the lenders of these subsidiaries from foreclosing on the relevant collateral. Such a foreclosure could result in our losing our ownership interest in the subsidiary or in some or all of its assets. The loss of our ownership interest in one or more of our subsidiaries or some or all of their assets could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
If we are unable to renew letter of credit facilities our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow may be materially adversely affected.
Our Revolver includes a letter of credit facility to support project-level contractual obligations. This letter of credit facility will need to be renewed as of July 23, 2017, at which time we will need to satisfy applicable financial ratios and covenants. If we are unable to renew our letters of credit as expected or if we are only able to replace them with letters of credit under different facilities on less favorable terms, we may experience a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. Furthermore, the inability to provide letters of credit may constitute a default under certain project-level financing arrangements, restrict the ability of the project-level subsidiary to make distributions to us and/or reduce the amount of cash available at such subsidiary to make distributions to us.
Our ability to raise additional capital to fund our operations may be limited.
Our ability to arrange additional financing, either at the corporate level or at a non-recourse project-level subsidiary, may be limited. Additional financing, including the costs of such financing, will be dependent on numerous factors, including:
- general economic and capital market conditions;
- credit availability from banks and other financial institutions;
- investor confidence in us, our partners, our Sponsor, as our principal stockholder (on a combined voting basis), and manager under the Management Services Agreement, and the regional wholesale power markets;
- our financial performance and the financial performance of our subsidiaries;
- our level of indebtedness and compliance with covenants in debt agreements;
- maintenance of acceptable project credit ratings or credit quality, including maintenance of the legal and tax structure of the project-level subsidiary upon which the credit ratings may depend;
- cash flow; and
- provisions of tax and securities laws that may impact raising capital.
We may not be successful in obtaining additional financing for these or other reasons. Furthermore, we may be unable to refinance or replace project-level financing arrangements or other credit facilities on favorable terms or at all upon the expiration or termination thereof. Our failure, or the failure of any of our projects, to obtain additional capital or enter into new or replacement financing arrangements when due may constitute a default under such existing indebtedness and may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our ability to generate revenue from certain utility solar and wind energy projects depends on having interconnection arrangements and services.
Our future success will depend, in part, on our ability to maintain satisfactory interconnection agreements. If the interconnection or transmission agreement of a solar energy project or any other clean energy project we acquire, including the projects we expect to acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition, is terminated for any reason, we may not be able to replace it with an interconnection and transmission arrangement on terms as favorable as the existing arrangement, or at all, or we may experience significant delays or costs related to securing a replacement. If a network to which one or more of our existing solar energy projects, or projects we acquire, is connected experiences “down time,” the affected project may lose revenue and be exposed to non-performance penalties and claims from its customers. These may include claims for damages incurred by customers, such as the additional cost of acquiring alternative electricity supply at then-current spot market rates. The owners of the network will not usually compensate electricity generators for lost income due to down time. These factors could materially affect our ability to forecast operations and negatively affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flow.
For some of our projects, we rely on electric interconnection and transmission facilities that we do not own or control and that are subject to transmission constraints within a number of our regions. If these facilities fail to provide us with adequate transmission capacity, we may be restricted in our ability to deliver electric power to our customers and we may incur additional costs or forego revenues.
For our utility-scale projects we depend on electric transmission facilities owned and operated by others to deliver the power we generate and sell at wholesale to our utility customers. A failure or delay in the operation or development of these transmission facilities or a significant increase in the cost of the development of such facilities could result in our losing revenues. Such failures or delays could limit the amount of power our operating facilities deliver or delay the completion of our construction projects. Additionally, such failures, delays or increased costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. If a region’s power transmission infrastructure is inadequate, our recovery of wholesale costs and profits may be limited. If restrictive transmission price regulation is imposed, the transmission companies may not have a sufficient incentive to invest in expansion of transmission infrastructure. We also cannot predict whether transmission facilities will be expanded in specific markets to accommodate competitive access to those markets. In addition, certain of our operating facilities’ generation of electricity may be physically or economically curtailed without compensation due to transmission limitations or limitations on the transmission grid’s ability to accommodate all of the generating resources seeking to move power over or sell power through the grid, reducing our revenues and impairing our ability to capitalize fully on a particular facility’s generating potential. Such curtailments could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. Furthermore, economic congestion on the transmission grid (for instance, a positive price difference between the location where power is put on the grid by a project and the location where power is taken off the grid by the project’s customer) in certain of the bulk power markets in which we operate may occur and we may be deemed responsible for those congestion costs. If we were liable for such congestion costs, our financial results could be adversely affected.
We face competition from traditional and renewable energy companies.
The solar energy industry, and the broader renewable energy industry, including wind, is highly competitive and continually evolving as market participants strive to distinguish themselves within their markets and compete with large incumbent utilities and new market entrants. We believe that our primary competitors are the traditional incumbent utilities that supply energy to our potential customers under highly regulated rate and tariff structures. We compete with these traditional utilities primarily based on price, predictability of price and the ease with which customers can switch to electricity generated by our solar energy systems. If we cannot offer compelling value to our customers based on these factors, then our business will not grow. Traditional utilities generally have substantially greater financial, technical, operational and other resources than we do. As a result of their greater size, these competitors may be able to devote more resources to the research, development, promotion and sale of their products or respond more quickly to evolving industry standards and changes in market conditions than we can. Traditional utilities could also offer other value-added products or services that could help them to compete with us even if the cost of electricity they offer is higher than ours. In addition, a majority of traditional utilities’ sources of electricity is non-solar and non-renewable, which may allow them to sell electricity more cheaply than electricity generated by our solar energy systems and other types of clean energy systems we acquire, including the projects we expect to acquire through the First Wind Acquisition.
We also face risks that traditional utilities could change their volumetric-based (i.e., cents per kWh) rate and tariff structures to make distributed solar generation less economically attractive to their retail customers. Currently, net metering programs are utilized in 43 states to support the growth of distributed generation solar by requiring traditional utilities to reimburse their retail customers who are home and business owners for the excess power they generate at the level of the utilities’ retail rates rather than the rates at which those utilities buy power at wholesale. These net metering policies have generated controversy recently because the difference between traditional utilities’ retail rates and the rates at which they can buy power at wholesale can be significant and solar owners can escape most of the infrastructure surcharges that are part of other electricity users’ bills recovered through volumetric-based rates. To address those concerns and to allow traditional utilities to cover their transmission and distribution fixed charges, at least one state public utility commission, in Arizona, has allowed its largest traditional utility, Arizona Public Service, to assess a surcharge on customers with solar energy systems for their use of the utility’s grid, based on the size of the customer’s solar energy system. This surcharge will reduce the economic returns for the excess electricity that the solar energy systems produce. These types of changes or other types of changes that could reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of net-metering could be implemented by state public utility commissions or state legislatures in the other 43 states throughout the United States that utilize net-metering programs, and could significantly change the economic benefits of solar energy as perceived by traditional utilities’ retail customers.
We also face competition in the energy efficiency evaluation and upgrades market and we expect to face competition in additional markets as we introduce new energy-related products and services. As the solar industry grows and evolves, we will also face new competitors who are not currently in the market. Our failure to adapt to changing market conditions and to compete successfully with existing or new competitors will limit our growth and will have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
There are a limited number of purchasers of utility-scale quantities of electricity, which exposes us and our utility-scale projects to additional risk.
Since the transmission and distribution of electricity is either monopolized or highly concentrated in most jurisdictions, there are a limited number of possible purchasers for utility-scale quantities of electricity in a given geographic location, including transmission grid operators, state and investor-owned power companies, public utility districts and cooperatives. As a result, there is a concentrated pool of potential buyers for electricity generated by our plants and projects, which may restrict our ability to negotiate favorable terms under new PPAs and could impact our ability to find new customers for the electricity generated by our generation facilities should this become necessary. Furthermore, if the financial condition of these utilities and/or power purchasers deteriorated or the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or “RPS,” climate change programs or other regulations to which they are currently subject and that compel them to source renewable energy supplies change, demand for electricity produced by our plants could be negatively impacted. In addition, provisions in our power sale arrangements may provide for the curtailment of delivery of electricity for various operational reasons at no cost to the power purchaser, including to prevent damage to transmission systems and for system emergencies, force majeure, safety, reliability, maintenance and other operational reasons. Such curtailment would reduce revenues to at no cost to the purchaser including, in addition to certain of the general types noted above, events in which energy purchases would result in costs greater than those which the purchaser would incur if it did not make such purchases but instead generated an equivalent amount of energy (provided that such curtailment is due to operational reasons and does not occur solely as a consequence of purchaser’s filed avoided energy cost being lower than the agreement rates or purchasing less-expensive energy from another facility). Even though the Hawaii purchasers are required to take reasonable steps to minimize the number and duration of curtailment events, and that such curtailments will generally be made in reverse chronological order based upon Hawaii utility commission approval (which is beneficial to older projects such as Kaheawa Wind Power I, or “KWP I”), such curtailments could still occur and reduce revenues to the Hawaii wind projects. If we cannot enter into power sale arrangements on terms favorable to us, or at all, or if the purchaser under our power sale arrangements were to exercise its curtailment or other rights to reduce purchases or payments under such arrangements, our revenues and our decisions regarding development of additional projects may be adversely affected.
A significant deterioration in the financial performance of the retail industry could materially adversely affect our distributed generation business.
The financial performance of our distributed generation business depends in part upon the continued viability and financial stability of our customers in the retail industry, such as medium and large independent retailers and distribution centers. If the retail industry is materially and adversely affected by an economic downturn, increase in inflation or other factors, one or more of our largest customers could encounter financial difficulty, and possibly, bankruptcy. If one or more of our largest customers were to encounter financial difficulty or declare bankruptcy, they may reduce their PPA payments to us or stop them altogether. Any interruption or termination in payments by our customers would result in less cash being paid to the special purpose legal entities we establish to finance our projects, which could adversely affect the entities’ ability to make lease payments to the financing parties which are the legal owners of many of our solar energy systems or to pay our lenders in the case of the solar energy systems that we own. In such a case, the amount of distributable cash held by the entities would decrease, adversely affecting the cash flow we receive from such entities. In addition, our ability to finance additional new projects with PPAs from such customers would be adversely affected, undermining our ability to grow our business. Any reduction or termination of payments by one or more of our principal distributed generation customers could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The generation of electric energy from solar and wind energy sources depends heavily on suitable meteorological conditions. If solar or wind conditions are unfavorable, our electricity generation, and therefore revenue from our renewable generation facilities using our systems, may be substantially below our expectations.
The electricity produced and revenues generated by a solar electric generation facility and any wind facilities that we may acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition or otherwise are highly dependent on suitable solar and wind conditions and associated weather conditions, which are beyond our control. Furthermore, components of our system, such as solar panels and inverters or wind turbines, could be damaged by severe weather, such as hailstorms, tornadoes or lightning strikes. We generally will be obligated to bear the expense of repairing the damaged solar energy systems and wind projects that we own, and replacement and spare parts for key components may be difficult or costly to acquire or may be unavailable. Unfavorable weather and atmospheric conditions could impair the effectiveness of our assets or reduce their output beneath their rated capacity or require shutdown of key equipment, impeding operation of our solar assets and our ability to achieve forecasted revenues and cash flow. Sustained unfavorable weather could also unexpectedly delay the installation of solar energy systems, which could result in a delay in us acquiring new projects or increase the cost of such projects.
We base our investment decisions with respect to each solar energy facility and any wind facilities that we may acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition or otherwise on the findings of related solar and wind studies conducted on-site prior to construction or based on historical conditions at existing facilities. However, actual climatic conditions at a facility site may not conform to the findings of these studies and therefore, our facilities may not meet anticipated production levels or the rated capacity of our generation assets, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and cash flow. In particular, the electricity produced and revenues generated by a wind energy project depend heavily on wind conditions, which are variable and difficult to predict. In assessing the merits of undertaking the First Wind Acquisition, we considered the operating history of the wind facilities we expect to acquire as part of that transaction. Operating results for wind projects can vary significantly from period to period depending on the wind conditions during the periods in question and are estimated based on long-term wind and other meteorological studies. Actual wind conditions and future operating results, however, may not conform to these studies and may be affected by variations in weather patterns, including any potential impact of climate change. Therefore, the electricity generated by the wind projects we expect to acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition may not meet our anticipated production levels or the expected capacity of the turbines, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If the wind resources at a project are below the average level we expect, our rate of return for the project would be below our expectations and we could be adversely affected. Projections of wind resources also rely upon assumptions about turbine placement, interference between turbines and the effects of vegetation, land use and terrain, which involve uncertainty and require us to exercise considerable judgment. Any of these factors could cause any of the wind projects to have less wind potential than we expected, which could cause the return on our investment in these projects to be lower than expected.
Our hedging activities and those related to the First Wind assets that we intend to acquire may not adequately manage our exposure to commodity and financial risk, which could result in significant losses or require us to use cash collateral to meet margin requirements, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity, which could impair our ability to execute favorable financial hedges in the future.
First Wind has entered into, and, after the First Wind Acquisition, we may enter into, financial swaps or other hedging arrangements. We may also acquire additional assets with similar hedging arrangements in the future. Under the terms of First Wind’s existing financial swaps, the projects are not obligated to physically deliver or purchase electricity. Instead, they receive payments for specified quantities of electricity based on a fixed-price and are obligated to pay the counterparty the market price for the same quantities of electricity. These financial swaps cover quantities of electricity that First Wind estimates are highly likely to be produced. As a result, gains or losses under the financial swaps are designed to be offset by decreases or increases in a project’s revenues from spot sales of electricity in liquid ISO markets. However, the actual amount of electricity a project generates from operations may be materially different from First Wind’s estimates for a variety of reasons, including variable wind conditions and wind turbine availability. If a project does not generate the volume of electricity covered by the associated swap contract, we could incur significant losses if electricity prices in the market rise substantially above the fixed-price provided for in the swap. If a project generates more electricity than is contracted in the swap, the excess production will not be hedged and the related revenues will be exposed to market-price fluctuations.
We sometimes seek to sell forward a portion of our RECs or other environmental attributes to fix the revenues from those attributes and hedge against future declines in prices of RECs or other environmental attributes. If our projects do not generate the amount of electricity required to earn the RECs or other environmental attributes sold forward or if for any reason the electricity we generate does not produce RECs or other environmental attributes for a particular state, we may be required to make up the shortfall of RECs or other environmental attributes through purchases on the open market or make payments of liquidated damages. Further, current market conditions may limit our ability to hedge sufficient volumes of our anticipated RECs or other environmental attributes, leaving us exposed to the risk of falling prices for RECs or other environmental attributes. Future prices for RECs or other environmental attributes are also subject to the risk that regulatory changes will adversely affect prices.
While we currently own only solar energy projects, we intend to acquire a number of wind energy projects in the First Wind Acquisition and in the future we may decide to further expand our acquisition strategy to include other types of energy or transmission projects. To the extent that we expand our operations to include new business segments, our business operations may suffer from a lack of experience, which may materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We have limited experience in energy generation operations. As a result of this lack of experience, we may be prone to errors if we expand our projects beyond such energy projects other than solar and, upon consummation of the First Wind Acquisition, wind. We lack the technical training and experience with developing, starting or operating non-solar generation facilities. With no direct training or experience in these areas, our management may not be fully aware of the many specific requirements related to working in industries beyond solar energy generation. Additionally, we may be exposed to increased operating costs, unforeseen liabilities or risks, and regulatory and environmental concerns associated with entering new sectors of the power generation industry, which could have an adverse impact on our business as well as place us at a competitive disadvantage relative to more established non-solar energy market participants. In addition, such ventures could require a disproportionate amount of our management’s attention and resources. Our operations, earnings and ultimate financial success could suffer irreparable harm due to our management’s lack of experience in these industries. We may rely, to a certain extent, on the expertise and experience of industry consultants and we may have to hire additional experienced personnel to assist us with our operations.
Operation of power generation facilities involves significant risks and hazards that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. We may not have adequate insurance to cover these risks and hazards.
The ongoing operation of our facilities involves risks that include the breakdown or failure of equipment or processes or performance below expected levels of output or efficiency due to wear and tear, latent defect, design error or operator error or force majeure events, among other things. Operation of our facilities also involves risks that we will be unable to transport our product to our customers in an efficient manner due to a lack of transmission capacity. Unplanned outages of generating units, including extensions of scheduled outages, occur from time to time and are an inherent risk of our business. Unplanned outages typically increase our operation and maintenance expenses and may reduce our revenues as a result of generating and selling less power or require us to incur significant costs as a result of obtaining replacement power from third parties in the open market to satisfy our forward power sales obligations.
Our inability to efficiently operate our solar energy assets and the wind assets we intend to acquire from First Wind, manage capital expenditures and costs and generate earnings and cash flow from our asset-based businesses could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. While we maintain insurance, obtain warranties from vendors and obligate contractors to meet certain performance levels, the proceeds of such insurance, warranties or performance guarantees may not cover our lost revenues, increased expenses or liquidated damages payments should we experience equipment breakdown or non-performance by contractors or vendors.
Power generation involves hazardous activities, including delivering electricity to transmission and distribution systems. In addition to natural risks such as earthquake, flood, lightning, hurricane and wind, other hazards, such as fire, structural collapse and machinery failure are inherent risks in our operations. These and other hazards can cause significant personal injury or loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property, plant and equipment and contamination of, or damage to, the environment and suspension of operations. The occurrence of any one of these events may result in our being named as a defendant in lawsuits asserting claims for substantial damages, including for environmental cleanup costs, personal injury and property damage and fines and/or penalties. We maintain an amount of insurance protection that we consider adequate but we cannot provide any assurance that our insurance will be sufficient or effective under all circumstances and against all hazards or liabilities to which we may be subject. Furthermore, our insurance coverage is subject to deductibles, caps, exclusions and other limitations. A loss for which we are not fully insured could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flow. Further, due to rising insurance costs and changes in the insurance markets, we cannot provide any assurance that our insurance coverage will continue to be available at all or at rates or on terms similar to those presently available. Any losses not covered by insurance could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our business is subject to substantial governmental regulation and may be adversely affected by changes in laws or regulations, as well as liability under, or any future inability to comply with, existing or future regulations or other legal requirements.
Our business is subject to extensive federal, state and local laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate. Compliance with the requirements under these various regulatory regimes may cause us to incur significant costs, and failure to comply with such requirements could result in the shutdown of the non-complying facility or the imposition of liens, fines and/or civil or criminal liability.
With the exception of the Mt. Signal project, the Regulus project and certain of the projects we intend to acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition, all of the U.S. Projects in our portfolio are “qualifying small power production facilities,” or “Qualifying Facilities,” as defined under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, as amended, or “PURPA.” Depending upon the power production capacity of the project in question, our Qualifying Facilities and their immediate project company owners may be entitled to various exemptions from ratemaking and certain other regulatory provisions of the FPA, from the books and records access provisions of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 2005, or “PUHCA”, and from state organizational and financial regulation of electric utilities.
Each of the Mt. Signal ProjectCo, the Regulus ProjectCo and the majority of project company owners of the projects we intend to acquire in the First Wind Acquisition (such First Wind entities the “EWG ProjectCos”) have filed to be an “Exempt Wholesale Generator” as defined in PUHCA, which has the effect of exempting it and us (for purposes of our ownership of each such company) from the federal books and access provisions of PUHCA. The projects owned by certain of the EWG ProjectCos are Qualifying Facilities and in one instance the EWG ProjectCo that owns it may receive exemptions from regulation as “public utilities” under certain provisions of the FPA. However, the Mt. Signal ProjectCo, the Regulus ProjectCo and the EWG Project Cos are subject to regulation for most purposes as a “public utility” under the FPA, including regulation of their rates and their issuances of securities. Each of the Mt. Signal ProjectCo, the Regulus ProjectCo and the EWG ProjectCos has obtained “market-based rate authorization” and associated blanket authorizations and waivers from FERC under the FPA, which allows it to sell electric energy, capacity and ancillary services at wholesale at negotiated, market-based rates, instead of cost-of-service rates, as well as waivers of, and blanket authorizations under, certain FERC regulations that are commonly granted to market based rate sellers, including blanket authorizations to issue securities.
The failure of the project company owners of our Qualifying Facilities to maintain available exemptions under PURPA may result in their becoming subject to significant additional regulatory requirements. In addition, the failure of the Mt. Signal ProjectCo, the Regulus ProjectCo, the EWG ProjectCos, or other project company owners of our Qualifying Facilities to comply with applicable regulatory requirements may result in the imposition of penalties as discussed further in “Business—Regulatory Matters.”
In particular, the Mt. Signal ProjectCo, the Regulus ProjectCo, the EWG ProjectCos and any of the other owners of our project companies that obtain market-based rate authority from FERC under the FPA are or will be subject to certain market behavior rules as established and enforced by FERC, and if they are determined to have violated those rules, will be subject to potential disgorgement of profits associated with the violation, penalties, and suspension or revocation of their market-based rate authority. If such entities were to lose their market-based rate authority, they would be required to obtain FERC’s acceptance of a cost-of-service rate schedule for wholesale sales of electric energy, capacity and ancillary services and could become subject to significant accounting, record-keeping, and reporting requirements that are imposed on FERC-regulated public utilities with cost-based rate schedules.
Substantially all of our assets are also subject to the rules and regulations applicable to power generators generally, in particular the reliability standards of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation or similar standards in Canada, the United Kingdom and Chile. If we fail to comply with these mandatory reliability standards, we could be subject to sanctions, including substantial monetary penalties, increased compliance obligations and disconnection from the grid.
The regulatory environment for electric generation in the United States has undergone significant changes in the last several years due to state and federal policies affecting the wholesale and retail power markets and the creation of incentives for the addition of large amounts of new renewable generation, demand response resources and, in some cases, transmission assets. These changes are ongoing and we cannot predict the future design of the wholesale and retail power markets or the ultimate effect that the changing regulatory environment will have on our business. In addition, in some of these markets, interested parties have proposed material market design changes, including the elimination of a single clearing price mechanism, as well as made proposals to re-regulate the markets or require divestiture of electric generation assets by asset owners or operators to reduce their market share. Other proposals to re-regulate may be made and legislative or other attention to the electric power market restructuring process may delay or reverse the deregulation process. If competitive restructuring of the electric power markets is reversed, discontinued or delayed, our business prospects and financial results could be negatively impacted.
Similarly, we cannot predict if the significant increase in the installation of renewable energy projects in the other markets we operate in could result in modifications to applicable rules and regulations.
Laws, governmental regulations and policies supporting renewable energy, and specifically solar and wind energy (including tax incentives), could change at any time, including as a result of new political leadership, and such changes may materially adversely affect our business and our growth strategy.
Renewable generation assets currently benefit from various federal, state and local governmental incentives. In the United States, these incentives include investment tax credits, or “ITCs,” production tax credits, or “PTCs,” loan guarantees, RPS programs and modified accelerated cost-recovery system of depreciation. For example, the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the “Code,” provides an ITC of 30% of the cost-basis of an eligible resource, including solar energy facilities placed in service prior to the end of 2016, which percentage is currently scheduled to be reduced to 10% for solar energy systems placed in service after December 31, 2016. The U.S. Congress could reduce the ITC to below 30% prior to the end of 2016, reduce the ITC to below 10% for periods after 2016 or replace the expected 10% ITC with an untested production tax credit of an unknown amount. Any reduction in the ITC could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. PTCs, which are federal income tax credits related to the quantity of renewable energy produced and sold during a taxable year, or ITCs in lieu of PTCs, are available only for wind energy projects that began construction on or prior to December 31, 2014. PTCs and accelerated tax depreciation benefits generated by operating projects can be monetized by entering into tax equity financing agreements with investors that can utilize the tax benefits, which have been a key financing tool for wind energy projects. The growth of our wind energy business may be dependent on the U.S. Congress further extending the expiration date of, renewing or replacing PTCs, without which the market for tax equity financing for wind projects would likely cease to exist. Recent legislative efforts to extend or renew PTCs have failed, and we cannot assure that current or any subsequent efforts to extend, renew or replace PTCs will be successful. Any failure to further extend, renew or replace PTCs could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Many U.S. states have adopted RPS programs mandating that a specified percentage of electricity sales come from eligible sources of renewable energy. However, the regulations that govern the RPS programs, including pricing incentives for renewable energy, or reasonableness guidelines for pricing that increase valuation compared to conventional power (such as a projected value for carbon reduction or consideration of avoided integration costs), may change. If the RPS requirements are reduced or eliminated, it could lead to fewer future power contracts or lead to lower prices for the sale of power in future power contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on our future growth prospects. Such material adverse effects may result from decreased revenues, reduced economic returns on certain project company investments, increased financing costs and/or difficulty obtaining financing.
Renewable energy sources in Canada benefit from federal and provincial incentives, such as RPS programs, accelerated cost recovery deductions allowed for tax purposes, the availability of off-take agreements through RPS and the Ontario Feed-in Tariff, or “FiT” program, and other commercially oriented incentives. Renewable energy sources in the United Kingdom benefit from renewable obligation certificates, climate change levy exemption certificates, embedded benefits and contracts for difference. Renewable energy sources in Chile benefit from an RPS program. Any adverse change to, or the elimination of, these incentives could have a material adverse effect on our business and our future growth prospects.
In addition, governmental regulations and policies could be changed to provide for new rate programs that undermine the economic returns for both new and existing distributed solar assets by charging additional, non-negotiable fixed or demand charges or other fees or reductions in the number of projects allowed under net metering policies. Our business could also be subject to new and burdensome interconnection processes, delays and upgrade costs or local permit and site restrictions.
If any of the laws or governmental regulations or policies that support renewable energy, including solar energy, change, or if we are subject to new and burdensome laws or regulations, such changes may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We have a limited operating history and as a result we may not operate on a profitable basis.
We have a relatively new portfolio of assets, including several projects that have only recently commenced operations or that we expect will commence operations in the near future, and a limited operating history on which to base an evaluation of our business and prospects. Our prospects must be considered in light of the risks, expenses and difficulties frequently encountered by companies in their early stages of operation, particularly in a rapidly evolving industry such as ours. We cannot assure you that we will be successful in addressing the risks we may encounter, and our failure to do so could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our Sponsor may incur additional costs or delays in completing the construction of certain generation facilities, which could materially adversely affect our growth strategy.
Our growth strategy is dependent to a significant degree on acquiring new solar energy projects from our Sponsor and third parties. Our Sponsor’s or such third parties’ failure to complete such projects in a timely manner, or at all, could have a material adverse effect on our growth strategy. The construction of solar energy facilities and wind energy facilities, including those development stage facilities our Sponsor intends to acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition involves many risks including:
- delays in obtaining, or the inability to obtain, necessary permits and licenses;
- delays and increased costs related to the interconnection of new generation facilities to the transmission system;
- the inability to acquire or maintain land use and access rights;
- the failure to receive contracted third party services;
- interruptions to dispatch at our facilities;
- supply interruptions;
- work stoppages;
- labor disputes;
- weather interferences;
- unforeseen engineering, environmental and geological problems;
- unanticipated cost overruns in excess of budgeted contingencies;
- failure of contracting parties to perform under contracts, including engineering, procurement and construction contractors; and
- operations and maintenance costs not covered by warranties or that occur following expiration of warranties.
Any of these risks could cause a delay in the completion of projects under development, which could have a material adverse effect on our growth strategy.
Moreover, our Sponsor intends to acquire substantially all of the assets, business and operations of First Wind, other than the operating projects we intend to acquire in the First Wind Acquisition. Our Sponsor does not have independent expertise in developing, constructing or operating wind energy assets. This inexperience may impact the ability of our Sponsor to complete wind projects, including those wind projects to which we expect to have call rights pursuant to the Intercompany Agreement.
Maintenance, expansion and refurbishment of power generation facilities involve significant risks that could result in unplanned power outages or reduced output.
Our facilities may require periodic upgrading and improvement. Any unexpected operational or mechanical failure, including failure associated with breakdowns and forced outages, and any decreased operational or management performance, could reduce our facilities’ generating capacity below expected levels, reducing our revenues and jeopardizing our ability to pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock at forecasted levels or at all. Degradation of the performance of our solar facilities above levels provided for in the related PPAs may also reduce our revenues. Unanticipated capital expenditures associated with maintaining, upgrading or repairing our facilities may also reduce profitability.
We may also choose to refurbish or upgrade our facilities based on our assessment that such activity will provide adequate financial returns. Such facilities require time for development and capital expenditures before COD, and key assumptions underpinning a decision to make such an investment may prove incorrect, including assumptions regarding construction costs, timing, available financing and future power prices. This could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Moreover, spare parts for wind turbines and solar facilities and key pieces of equipment may be hard to acquire or unavailable to us. Sources of some significant spare parts and other equipment are located outside of North America. If we were to experience a shortage of or inability to acquire critical spare parts we could incur significant delays in returning facilities to full operation, which could negatively impact our business financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
First Wind’s KWP II project is required under its PPA to install and maintain a battery energy storage system, the manufacturer of which is in bankruptcy and no longer operational. If First Wind is unable to source acceptable replacement batteries, this could result in a default under, or termination of, KWP II’s PPA.
First Wind’s Kaheawa Wind Power II, or “KWP II” project is required under its PPA to install and maintain a battery energy storage system, or “BESS,” for electric grid stability and system reliability purposes. The manufacturer of the BESS, Xtreme Power, is in bankruptcy and is no longer providing replacement batteries and other components for the BESS. First Wind is sourcing replacement batteries from a new supplier that we expect will be installed and tested in the near future, but such replacement batteries may not be sufficient for the system to operate as designed or may not be available in the quantities or at a price that permit the KWP II to operate economically or in compliance with its PPA. First Wind’s Kahuku project had a similar BESS that was required to be operated under its PPA, but the BESS was destroyed in a catastrophic fire. The project installed a Dynamic Volt-Amp Reactive System, or“D-Var,” as a replacement for the BESS under the Kahuku project PPA, which D-Var has been operating as designed. If the BESS system at KWP II was damaged or could no longer operate due to a lack of sufficient batteries or other system components, a D-Var could not be used at the KWP II project as a replacement to the BESS due to technical constraints, and another replacement system may not be compatible or available at a price that would allow the project to operate economically. Failure to maintain the battery system constitutes a default under KWP II’s PPA and could result in the termination of KWP II’s PPA, which could negatively impact our business financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Certain of the wind projects use equipment originally produced and supplied by Clipper, which no longer manufactures, warrants or services the wind turbine it produced. If Clipper equipment experiences defects in the future, we will not have the benefit of a manufacturer’s warranty on such original equipment, may not be able to obtain replacement components and will need to self fund the correction or replacement of such equipment.
Certain of the wind projects use equipment originally produced and supplied by Clipper Windpower, LLC, or its affiliates, or “Clipper,” which no longer manufactures, warrants or services the wind turbine it produced that are owned by First Wind. Such equipment has experienced certain technical issues with its wind turbine technology and may continue to experience similar issues.
The Cohocton, Kahuku, Sheffield, and Steel Winds I and II projects operate ninety two Liberty turbines (230 MW) supplied by Clipper. Since initial deployment, Clipper has announced and remediated various defects affecting the Liberty turbines deployed by First Wind in its wind projects and by other customers that resulted in prolonged downtime for turbines at various projects.
Beginning in 2012, First Wind and Clipper engaged in a number of litigation and arbitration proceedings concerning the performance of the Liberty turbines. On February 12, 2013, all such disputes were settled pursuant to a Settlement, Release and O&M Transition Agreement among certain First Wind and Clipper entities, or the “Settlement Agreement.” Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, First Wind has, among other things, released Clipper of all of its warranty obligations with respect to the equipment supplied by Clipper, and the obligations under the related operation and maintenance contracts, and has been granted by Clipper a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to make, improve and modify any Clipper-supplied equipment and to create derivative works from such equipment.
As a result, if Clipper equipment experiences defects in the future, we will not have the benefit of a manufacturer’s warranty on such original equipment, may not be able to obtain replacement components and will need to self fund the correction or replacement of such equipment, which could negatively impact our business financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our Sponsor and other developers of solar energy projects and other clean energy projects depend on a limited number of suppliers of solar panels, inverters, modules turbines, towers and other system components and turbines and other equipment associated with wind energy facilities. Any shortage, delay or component price change from these suppliers could result in construction or installation delays, which could affect the number of projects we are able to acquire in the future.
Our solar projects are constructed with solar panels, inverters, modules and other system components from a limited number of suppliers, making us susceptible to quality issues, shortages and price changes. If our Sponsor or third parties from whom we may acquire solar projects or other clean power generation projects in the future fail to develop, maintain and expand relationships with these or other suppliers, or if they fail to identify suitable alternative suppliers in the event of a disruption with existing suppliers, the construction or installation of new solar energy projects or other clean power generation projects, including any wind and solar projects we intend to acquire from First Wind, may be delayed or abandoned, which would reduce the number of available projects that we may have the opportunity to acquire in the future.
There have also been periods of industry-wide shortage of key components, including solar panels and wind turbines, in times of rapid industry growth. The manufacturing infrastructure for some of these components has a long lead time, requires significant capital investment and relies on the continued availability of key commodity materials, potentially resulting in an inability to meet demand for these components. In addition, the United States government has imposed tariffs on solar cells manufactured in China. Based on determinations by the United States government, the applicable anti-dumping tariff rates range from approximately 8% to 239%. To the extent that United States market participants experience harm from Chinese pricing practices, an additional tariff of approximately 15%-16% will be applied. If our Sponsor or other unaffiliated third parties purchase solar panels containing cells manufactured in China, our purchase price for projects would reflect the tariff penalties mentioned above. A shortage of key commodity materials could also lead to a reduction in the number of projects that we may have the opportunity to acquire in the future, or delay or increase the costs of acquisitions.
We may incur unexpected expenses if the suppliers of components in our energy projects default in their warranty obligations.
The solar panels, inverters, modules and other system components utilized in our solar energy projects are generally covered by manufacturers’ warranties, which typically range from 5 to 20 years. When purchasing wind turbines, the purchaser will enter into warranty agreements with the manufacturer which typically expire within two to five years after the turbine delivery date. In the event any such components fail to operate as required, we may be able to make a claim against the applicable warranty to cover all or a portion of the expense associated with the faulty component. However, these suppliers could cease operations and no longer honor the warranties, which would leave us to cover the expense associated with the faulty component. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow could be materially adversely affected if we cannot make claims under warranties covering our projects.
Decommissioning costs must be paid or accrued in advance in many cases.
Both wind energy systems and solar systems must be authorized by permits or other governmental approvals that, in many cases, are conditioned upon establishing financial assurance (in the form of a trust fund or security device, such as a letter of credit) to assure the payment of estimated decommissioning costs. The amounts of such estimates can vary over time and could rise to levels that are not expected at this time. Accrual or payment into such trust fund, or security device, or posting of letters of credit, can involve material costs that adversely affect the financial performance of our projects. In addition, the amounts of such trust fund or security devices, or letters of credit, vary depending upon the estimates of the net costs of decommissioning (taking into account the revenue obtained from selling the project equipment at the end of the project’s commercial life). Additional decommissioning deposits, payments or security instruments may be required at a later time, depending on the estimates for scrap value recovery and changing requirements for demolition. Decommissioning costs, and required accruals, payments or security devices could generate new or unplanned costs that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations and related compliance expenditures and liabilities.
Our assets are subject to numerous and significant federal, state, local and foreign laws, including statutes, regulations, guidelines, policies, directives and other requirements governing or relating to, among other things: protection of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species and their habitat; air emissions; discharges into water; water use; the storage, handling, use, transportation and distribution of dangerous goods and hazardous, residual and other regulated materials, such as chemicals; the prevention of releases of hazardous materials into the environment; the prevention, investigation, monitoring and remediation of hazardous materials in soil and groundwater, both on and offsite; land use and zoning matters; workers’ health and safety matters or other potential nuisances such as the flickering effect caused when rotating wind turbine blades periodically cast shadows through openings such as the windows of neighboring buildings, which is known as shadow flicker; and the presence or discovery of archaeological, religious or cultural resources at or near project operations. Our facilities and any wind facilities that we may acquire from First Wind could experience incidents, malfunctions and other unplanned events, such as spills of hazardous materials that may result in personal injury, penalties and property damage. In addition, certain environmental laws may result in liability, regardless of fault, concerning contamination at a range of properties, including properties currently or formerly owned, leased or operated by us and properties where we disposed of, or arranged for disposal of, waste and other hazardous materials. As such, the operation of our facilities carries an inherent risk of environmental, health and safety liabilities (including potential civil actions, compliance or remediation orders, fines and other penalties), and may result in our involvement from time to time in administrative and judicial proceedings relating to such matters. While we have implemented environmental, health and safety management programs designed to continually improve environmental, health and safety performance, we cannot assure you that such liabilities including significant required capital expenditures, as well as the costs for complying with environmental laws and regulations, will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We may be required to take action or restrict operations to mitigate hazards to air navigation and interference with other air space users.
Wind energy towers and turbines can physically interfere with air navigation, and solar facilities can generate glare that may have a distracting effect on pilots. Although First Wind is required to notify the Federal Aviation Administration, or “FAA,” of the location of its wind towers and facilities, they may not have correctly notified the FAA in all cases. There is some chance that the facilities we expect to acquire as part of the First Wind Acquisition could result in adverse effects on air safety, or that we could be ordered to mark our facilities or modify operations to avoid such effects. In addition, we could incur fines or penalties in connection with the failure to property notify the FAA or otherwise fail to comply with regulations relating to hazardous to air navigation. In addition, wind energy facilities can interfere with military radar operations or telecommunications. If such interference occurs, we may be required to modify our operations to avoid such interference. Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Harming of protected species can result in curtailment of wind project operations.
The construction and operation of energy projects can adversely affect endangered, threatened or otherwise protected animal species. Wind projects, in particular, involve a risk that protected species will be harmed, as the turbine blades travel at a high rate of speed and may strike flying animals (birds or bats) that happen to travel into the path of spinning blades. While pre-construction studies are conducted to avoid siting wind projects in areas where protected species are highly concentrated, there is often a level of unavoidable risk that flying species will be harmed by project operation.
First Wind’s wind energy projects that we intend to acquire are known to strike and kill bats and birds, and occasionally strike and kill endangered or protected species, including protected golden or bald eagles. As a result, we will attempt to observe all industry guidelines and governmentally-recommended best practices to avoid harm to protected species, such as avoiding structures with perches, avoiding guy wires that may kill birds or bats in flight, or avoiding lighting that may attract protected species at night. In addition, we will attempt to reduce the attractiveness of a site to predatory birds by site maintenance (e.g., by mowing or removal of animal and bird carcasses).
Where possible, we will obtain permits for incidental take of protected species. First Wind holds such permits for some of its wind projects, particularly in Hawaii, where several species are endangered and protected by law. First Wind is currently in discussions with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, or “USFWS,” about obtaining incidental take permits for bald and golden eagles at locations with low to moderate risk of such events. First Wind is also discussing with USFWS amending its incidental take permits for certain wind projects in Hawaii, where observed endangered species mortality has exceeded prior estimates and may exceed permit limits on such takings.
Excessive taking of protected species can result in requirements to implement mitigation strategies, including curtailment of operations. First Wind’s projects in Hawaii that we intend to acquire, several of which hold incidental take permits to authorize the incidental taking of small numbers of protected species, are subject to curtailment (i.e., reduction in operations) if excessive taking of protected species is detected through monitoring. At some of the projects in Hawaii, curtailment has been implemented, but not at levels that materially reduce electricity generation or revenues. Such curtailments (to protect bats) have reduced nighttime operation and limited operation to times when wind speeds are high enough to prevent bats from flying into a project’s blades. Based on continuing concerns about species other than bats, however, additional curtailments are possible at those locations.
Risks that are beyond our control, including but not limited to acts of terrorism or related acts of war, natural disasters, hostile cyber intrusions, theft or other catastrophic events, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our solar energy generation facilities that we acquired for our initial portfolio or those that we otherwise acquire in the future, including the Call Right Projects and any ROFO Projects and the wind and solar projects we intend to acquire through the First Wind Acquisition, and the properties of unaffiliated third parties on which they may be located may be targets of terrorist activities, as well as events occurring in response to or in connection with them, that could cause environmental repercussions and/or result in full or partial disruption of the facilities’ ability to generate, transmit, transport or distribute electricity or natural gas. Strategic targets, such as energy-related facilities, may be at greater risk of future terrorist activities than other domestic targets. Hostile cyber intrusions, including those targeting information systems as well as electronic control systems used at the generating plants and for the related distribution systems, could severely disrupt business operations and result in loss of service to customers, as well as create significant expense to repair security breaches or system damage.
Furthermore, certain of the projects that we acquired for our Initial Portfolio or the Call Right Projects are located in active earthquake zones in Chile, California and Arizona, and our Sponsor and unaffiliated third parties from whom we may seek to acquire projects in the future may conduct operations in the same region or in other locations that are susceptible to natural disasters. The occurrence of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, drought, flood or localized extended outages of critical utilities or transportation systems, or any critical resource shortages, affecting us, SunEdison or third parties from whom we may seek to acquire projects in the future, could cause a significant interruption in our business, damage or destroy our facilities or those of our suppliers or the manufacturing equipment or inventory of our suppliers.
Additionally, certain of our power generation assets and equipment are at risk for theft and damage. Although theft of equipment is rare, its occurrence can be significantly disruptive to our operations. For example, because we utilize copper wire as an essential component in our electricity generation and transportation infrastructure, we are at risk for copper wire theft, especially at our international projects, due to an increased demand for copper in the United States and internationally. Theft of copper wire or solar panels can cause significant disruption to our operations for a period of months and can lead to operating losses at those locations.
Any such terrorist acts, environmental repercussions or disruptions, natural disasters or theft incidents could result in a significant decrease in revenues or significant reconstruction, remediation or replacement costs, beyond what could be recovered through insurance policies, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Our use and enjoyment of real property rights for our projects may be adversely affected by the rights of lienholders and leaseholders that are superior to those of the grantors of those real property rights to us.
Solar and wind projects generally are and are likely to be located on land occupied by the project pursuant to long-term easements and leases. The ownership interests in the land subject to these easements and leases may be subject to mortgages securing loans or other liens (such as tax liens) and other easement and lease rights of third parties (such as leases of oil or mineral rights) that were created prior to the project’s easements and leases. As a result, the project’s rights under these easements or leases may be subject, and subordinate, to the rights of those third parties. We perform title searches and obtain title insurance to protect ourselves against these risks. Such measures may, however, be inadequate to protect us against all risk of loss of our rights to use the land on which the solar and wind projects are located, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Current or future litigation or administrative proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have and continue to be involved in legal proceedings, administrative proceedings, claims and other litigation that arise in the ordinary course of business of operating our projects, and we will likely become subject to similar litigation when we acquire the wind projects upon consummation of the First Wind Acquisition. Individuals and interest groups may sue to challenge the issuance of a permit for a solar or wind energy project. In addition, a project may be subject to legal proceedings or claims contesting the operation of the wind projects. Unfavorable outcomes or developments relating to these proceedings, such as judgments for monetary damages, injunctions or denial or revocation of permits, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, settlement of claims could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
International operations subject us to political and economic uncertainties.
Our portfolio consists of solar projects located in the United States and its unincorporated territories, Canada, the United Kingdom and Chile. We intend to rapidly expand and diversify our current project portfolio by acquiring utility-scale and distributed clean generation assets located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Chile. As a result, our activities are subject to significant political and economic uncertainties that may adversely affect our operating and financial performance. These uncertainties include, but are not limited to:
- the risk of a change in renewable power pricing policies, possibly with retroactive effect;
- measures restricting the ability of our facilities to access the grid to deliver electricity at certain times or at all;
- the macroeconomic climate and levels of energy consumption in the countries where we have operations;
- the comparative cost of other sources of energy;
- changes in taxation policies and/or the regulatory environment in the countries in which we have operations, including reductions to renewable power incentive programs;
- the imposition of currency controls and foreign exchange rate fluctuations;
- high rates of inflation;
- protectionist and other adverse public policies, including local content requirements, import/export tariffs, increased regulations or capital investment requirements;
- changes to land use regulations and permitting requirements;
- difficulty in timely identifying, attracting and retaining qualified technical and other personnel;
- difficulty competing against competitors who may have greater financial resources and/or a more effective or established localized business presence;
- difficulty in developing any necessary partnerships with local businesses on commercially acceptable terms; and
- being subject to the jurisdiction of courts other than those of the United States, which courts may be less favorable to us.
These uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We may expand our international operations into countries where we currently have no presence, which would subject us to risks that may be specific to those new markets.
Since solar energy generation and other forms of clean energy are in the early stages of development and the industry is evolving rapidly, we could decide to expand into other international markets. Risks inherent in an expansion of operations into new international markets include the following:
- inability to work successfully with third parties having local expertise to develop and construct projects and operate plants;
- restrictions on repatriation of earnings and cash;
- multiple, conflicting and changing laws and regulations, including those relating to export and import, the power market, tax, the environment, labor and other government requirements, approvals, permits and licenses;
- difficulties in enforcing agreements in foreign legal systems;
- changes in general economic and political conditions, including changes in government-regulated rates and incentives relating to solar energy generation;
- political and economic instability, including wars, acts of terrorism, political unrest, boycotts, sanctions and other business restrictions;
- difficulties with, and extra-normal costs of, recruiting and retaining local individuals skilled in international business operations;
- international business practices that may conflict with other customs or legal requirements to which we are subject, including anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws;
- risk of nationalization or other expropriation of private enterprises and land;
- financial risks, such as longer sales and payment cycles and greater difficulty collecting accounts receivable;
- fluctuations in currency exchange rates;
- high rates of inflation;
- inability to obtain, maintain or enforce intellectual property rights; and
- inability to obtain adequate financing on attractive terms and conditions.
Doing business in new international markets will require us to be able to respond to rapid changes in the particular market, legal and political conditions in these countries. While we have gained significant experience from our international operations to date, we may not be able to timely develop and implement policies and strategies that will be effective in each international jurisdiction where we may decide to conduct business.
Changes in foreign withholding taxes could adversely affect our results of operations.
We conduct a portion of our operations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Chile, and may in the future expand our business into other foreign countries. We are subject to risks that foreign countries may impose additional withholding taxes or otherwise tax our foreign income. Currently, distributions of earnings and other payments, including interest, to us from our foreign projects could constitute ordinary dividend income taxable to the extent of our earnings and profits, which may be subject to withholding taxes imposed by the jurisdiction in which such entities are formed or operating. Any such withholding taxes will reduce the amount of after-tax cash we can receive. If those withholding taxes are increased, the amount of after-tax cash we receive will be further reduced.
We are exposed to foreign currency exchange risks because certain of our solar energy projects are located in foreign countries.
We generate a portion of our revenues and incur a portion of our expenses in currencies other than U.S. dollars. Changes in economic or political conditions in any of the countries in which we operate could result in exchange rate movement, new currency or exchange controls or other restrictions being imposed on our operations or expropriation. Because our financial results are reported in U.S. dollars, if we generate revenue or earnings in other currencies, the translation of those results into U.S. dollars can result in a significant increase or decrease in the amount of those revenues or earnings. To the extent that we are unable to match revenues received in foreign currencies with costs paid in the same currency, exchange rate fluctuations in any such currency could have an adverse effect on our profitability. Our debt service requirements are primarily in U.S. dollars even though a percentage of our cash flow is generated in other foreign currencies and therefore significant changes in the value of such foreign currencies relative to the U.S. dollar could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and our ability to meet interest and principal payments on debts denominated in U.S. dollars. In addition to currency translation risks, we incur currency transaction risks whenever we or one of our projects enter into a purchase or sales transaction using a currency other than the local currency of the transacting entity.
Given the volatility of exchange rates, we cannot assure you that we will be able to effectively manage our currency transaction and/or translation risks. It is possible that volatility in currency exchange rates will have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations. We expect to experience economic losses and gains and negative and positive impacts on earnings as a result of foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations, particularly as a result of changes in the value of the Canadian dollar, the British pound and other currencies. We expect that our revenues denominated in non-U.S. dollar currencies will continue to increase in future periods.
Additionally, although a portion of our revenues and expenses are denominated in foreign currency, we will pay dividends to holders of our Class A common stock in U.S. dollars. The amount of U.S. dollar denominated dividends paid to our holders of our Class A common stock will therefore be exposed to currency exchange rate risk. Although we intend to enter into hedging arrangements to help mitigate some of this exchange rate risk, these arrangements may not be sufficient. Changes in the foreign exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and may adversely affect the amount of cash dividends paid by us to holders of our Class A common stock.
Our international operations require us to comply with anti-corruption laws and regulations of the United States government and various non-U.S. jurisdictions.
Doing business in multiple countries requires us and our subsidiaries to comply with the laws and regulations of the United States government and various non-U.S. jurisdictions. Our failure to comply with these rules and regulations may expose us to liabilities. These laws and regulations may apply to us, our subsidiaries, individual directors, officers, employees and agents, and those of our Sponsor, and may restrict our operations, trade practices, investment decisions and partnering activities. In particular, our non-U.S. operations are subject to United States and foreign anti-corruption laws and regulations, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, or the “FCPA.” The FCPA prohibits United States companies and their officers, directors, employees and agents acting on their behalf from corruptly offering, promising, authorizing or providing anything of value to foreign officials for the purposes of influencing official decisions or obtaining or retaining business or otherwise obtaining favorable treatment. The FCPA also requires companies to make and keep books, records and accounts that accurately and fairly reflect transactions and dispositions of assets and to maintain a system of adequate internal accounting controls. As part of our business, we deal with state-owned business enterprises, the employees and representatives of which may be considered foreign officials for purposes of the FCPA. As a result, business dealings between our or our Sponsor’s employees and any such foreign official could expose our company to the risk of violating anti-corruption laws even if such business practices may be customary or are not otherwise prohibited between our company and a private third party. Violations of these legal requirements are punishable by criminal fines and imprisonment, civil penalties, disgorgement of profits, injunctions, debarment from government contracts as well as other remedial measures. We have established policies and procedures designed to assist us and our personnel in complying with applicable United States and non-U.S. laws and regulations; however, we cannot assure you that these policies and procedures will completely eliminate the risk of a violation of these legal requirements, and any such violation (inadvertent or otherwise) could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the future, we may acquire certain assets in which we have limited control over management decisions and our interests in such assets may be subject to transfer or other related restrictions.
We may seek to acquire additional assets in the future in which we own less than a majority of the related interests in the assets. In these investments, we will seek to exert a degree of influence with respect to the management and operation of assets in which we own less than a majority of the interests by negotiating to obtain positions on management committees or to receive certain limited governance rights, such as rights to veto significant actions. However, we may not always succeed in such negotiations, and we may be dependent on our co-venturers to operate such assets. Our co-venturers may not have the level of experience, technical expertise, human resources management and other attributes necessary to operate these assets optimally. In addition, conflicts of interest may arise in the future between us and our stockholders, on the one hand, and our co-venturers, on the other hand, where our co-venturers’ business interests are inconsistent with our interests and those of our stockholders. Further, disagreements or disputes between us and our co-venturers could result in litigation, which could increase our expenses and potentially limit the time and effort our officers and directors are able to devote to our business.
The approval of co-venturers also may be required for us to receive distributions of funds from assets or to sell, pledge, transfer, assign or otherwise convey our interest in such assets, or for us to acquire our Sponsor’s interests in such co-ventures as an initial matter. Alternatively, our co-venturers may have rights of first refusal or rights of first offer in the event of a proposed sale or transfer of our interests in such assets. These restrictions may limit the price or interest level for our interests in such assets, in the event we want to sell such interests.
Certain PPAs signed in connection with our utility-scale business are subject to public utility commission approval, and such approval may not be obtained or may be delayed.
As a renewable energy provider in the United States, the PPAs associated with our utility-scale projects are generally subject to approval by the applicable state public utility commission. It cannot be assured that such public utility commission approval will be obtained, and in certain markets, including California and Nevada, the public utility commissions have recently demonstrated a heightened level of scrutiny on renewable energy purchase agreements that have come before them for approval. If the required public utility commission approval is not obtained for any particular PPA, the utility counterparty may exercise its right to terminate such PPA, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
We may not be able to renew our sale-leasebacks on similar terms. If we are unable to renew a sale-leaseback on acceptable terms we may be required to remove the solar energy assets from the project site subject to the sale-leaseback transaction or, alternatively, we may be required to purchase the solar energy assets from the lessor at unfavorable terms.
Provided the lessee is not in default, customary end of lease term provisions for sale-leaseback transactions obligate the lessee to (i) renew the sale-leaseback assets at fair market value, (ii) purchase the solar energy assets at fair market value, or (iii) return the solar energy assets to the lessor. The cost of acquiring or removing a significant number of solar energy assets could be material. Further, we may not be successful in obtaining the additional financing necessary to purchase such solar energy assets from the lessor. Failure to renew our sale-leaseback transactions as they expire may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
The accounting treatment for many aspects of our solar energy business, and the wind business we expect to acquire upon consummation of the First Wind Acquisition, is complex and any changes to the accounting interpretations or accounting rules governing solar and wind energy businesses could have a material adverse effect on our GAAP reported results of operations and financial results.
The accounting treatment for many aspects of solar and wind energy businesses is complex, and our future results could be adversely affected by changes in the accounting treatment applicable to solar and wind energy businesses. In particular, any changes to the accounting rules regarding the following matters may require us to change the manner in which we operate and finance our business:
- revenue recognition and related timing;
- intra-company contracts;
- operation and maintenance contracts;
- joint venture accounting, including the consolidation of joint venture entities and the inclusion or exclusion of their assets and liabilities on our balance sheet;
- long-term vendor agreements; and
- foreign holding company tax treatment.
Negative public or community response to energy projects could adversely affect construction of our projects.
Negative public or community response to solar and other clean energy projects, including wind, could adversely affect our ability to acquire and operate our projects. Among concerns often cited by local community and other interest groups are objections to the aesthetic effect of plants on rural sites near residential areas, reduction of farmland and the possible displacement or disruption of wildlife. We expect this type of opposition to continue as we complete existing projects and acquire future projects. It is possible that we may also face resistance from aboriginal communities in connection with any proposed expansion onto sites that may be subject to land claims. Opposition to our requests for permits or successful challenges or appeals to permits issued to us could lead to legal, public relations and other drawbacks and costs that impede our ability to meet our growth targets, achieve commercial operations for a project on schedule and generate revenues.
Some of our and First Wind’s projects are and have been challenged at the development stage in administrative or judicial challenges from groups opposed to wind or solar energy projects on the basis of potential environmental, health or aesthetic impacts, noise or adverse effects on property values. In addition, continuing Public opposition exists at some of our and First Wind’s projects, or has existed in the past. Our experience is that such opposition subsides over time after projects are completed and are operating, but there are cases where opposition, disputes and even litigation continue into the operating period and could lead to curtailment of a project or other project modifications.
The seasonality of our operations may affect our liquidity.
We will need to maintain sufficient financial liquidity to absorb the impact of seasonal variations in energy production or other significant events. Prior to any resale, we expect that our principal source of liquidity will be cash generated from our operating activities, the cash retained by us for working capital purposes out of the gross proceeds of the public equity offering and borrowing capacity under our Term Loan and Revolver. Our quarterly results of operations may fluctuate significantly for various reasons, mostly related to economic incentives and weather patterns.
For instance, the amount of electricity our solar power generation assets produce is dependent in part on the amount of sunlight, or irradiation, where the assets are located. Because shorter daylight hours in winter months results in less irradiation, the generation of particular assets will vary depending on the season. Additionally, to the extent more of our power generation assets are located in the northern or southern hemisphere, overall generation of our entire asset portfolio could be impacted by seasonality. Further, time-of-day pricing factors vary seasonally which contributes to variability of revenues. Also, we expect the output from the North American wind projects which we expect to acquire in connection with the First Wind Acquisition to vary seasonally. We expect our portfolio of power generation assets to generate the lowest amount of electricity during the fourth quarter of each year. As a result, we expect our revenue and cash available for distribution to be lower during the fourth quarter. However, we expect aggregate seasonal variability to decrease if geographic diversity of our portfolio between the northern and southern hemisphere increases.
In addition, in Canada, the construction of solar energy systems may be concentrated during the second half of the calendar year, largely due to periodic reductions of the applicable minimum feed-in tariff and the fact that the coldest winter months are January through March, which impacts the amount of construction that occurs. In the United States, customers will sometimes make purchasing decisions towards the end of the year in order to take advantage of tax credits or for other budgetary reasons. If we fail to adequately manage the fluctuations in the timing of our projects, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially affected. The seasonality of our energy production may create increased demands on our working capital reserves and borrowing capacity under our Revolver during periods where cash generated from operating activities are lower. In the event that our working capital reserves and borrowing capacity under our Revolver are insufficient to meet our financial requirements, or in the event that the restrictive covenants in our Revolver restrict our access to such facilities, we may require additional equity or debt financing to maintain our solvency. Additional equity or debt financing may not be available when required or available on commercially favorable terms or on terms that are otherwise satisfactory to us, in which event our financial condition may be materially adversely affected.
Changes in tax laws may limit the current benefits of solar energy investment.
We face risks related to potential changes in tax laws that may limit the current benefits of solar energy investment. As discussed below in “Industry—Government Incentives for Solar Energy,” government incentives provide significant support for renewable energy sources such as solar energy, and a decrease in these tax benefits could increase the costs of investment in solar energy. For example, in 2013 the Czech Republic and Spain announced retroactive taxes for solar energy producers. If these types of changes are enacted in other countries as well, the costs of solar energy may increase.
Additionally, we receive grant payments for specified energy property from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in lieu of tax credits pursuant to Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, each, a “Section 1603 Grant.” As a condition to claiming a Section 1063 Grant, we are required to maintain compliance with the terms of the Section 1603 program for a period of five years beginning on the date the eligible solar energy property is placed in service. Failure to maintain compliance with the requirements of Section 1603 could result in recapture of all or a part of the amounts received under a Section 1603 Grant, plus interest. …
Risks Related to Taxation
Tax provisions and policies supporting renewable energy could change at any time, and such changes may result in a material increase in our estimated future income tax liability.
Renewable generation assets currently benefit from various federal, state and local tax incentives, including ITCs, PTCs and a modified accelerated cost-recovery system of depreciation. The Code currently provides an ITC of 30% of the cost-basis of an eligible resource, including certain solar energy facilities placed in service prior to the end of 2016, which percentage is currently scheduled to be reduced to 10% for solar energy systems placed in service after December 31, 2016. The U.S. Congress could reduce, replace or eliminate the ITC. PTCs, or ITCs in lieu of PTCs, for wind generation assets apply only to projects the construction of which began prior to the end of 2014 and, the U.S. Congress could fail to extend the termination of, renew or replace such incentives. In addition, we benefit from an accelerated tax depreciation schedule for our eligible solar energy projects. The U.S. Congress could in the future eliminate or modify such accelerated depreciation. Moreover, the cost-basis of eligible resources and projects acquired from our Sponsor may be reduced if a tax authority were to successfully challenge our transfer prices as not reflecting arms’ length prices, in which case the amount of our expected ITC and depreciation deductions would be reduced. Additionally, we may be required to repay a Section 1603 Grant, with interest, if the U.S. Treasury were to successfully challenge a solar energy property for which such a Section 1603 Grant has been made as not complying with the requirements of Section 1603.
Any reduction in our ITCs, PTCs or depreciation deductions as a result of a change in law or successful transfer pricing challenge, or any elimination or modification of the accelerated tax depreciation schedule, may result in a material increase in our estimated future income tax liability and may negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our future tax liability may be greater than expected if we do not generate NOLs sufficient to offset taxable income.
We expect to generate NOLs and NOL carryforwards that we can utilize to offset future taxable income. Based on our portfolio of assets that we expect will benefit from an accelerated tax depreciation schedule, and subject to tax obligations resulting from potential tax audits, we do not expect to pay significant United States federal income tax in the near term. However, in the event these losses are not generated as expected (including if our accelerated tax depreciation schedule for our eligible solar energy projects is eliminated or adversely modified), are successfully challenged by the United States Internal Revenue Service, or “IRS,” (in a tax audit or otherwise), or are subject to future limitations as a result of an “ownership change” as discussed below, our ability to realize these future tax benefits may be limited. Any such reduction, limitation, or challenge may result in a material increase in our estimated future income tax liability and may negatively impact our business, financial condition and operating results.
Our ability to use NOLs to offset future income may be limited.
Our ability to use NOLs generated in the future could be substantially limited if we were to experience an “ownership change” as defined under Section 382 of the Code. In general, an ownership change occurs if the aggregate stock ownership of certain holders (generally 5% holders, applying certain look-through and aggregation rules) increases by more than 50% over such holders’ lowest percentage ownership over a rolling three-year period. If a corporation undergoes an ownership change, its ability to use its pre-change NOL carryforwards and other pre-change deferred tax attributes to offset its post-change income and taxes may be limited. Future sales of our Class A common stock by SunEdison, as well as future issuances by us, could contribute to a potential ownership change.
A valuation allowance may be required for our deferred tax assets.
Our expected NOLs will be reflected as a deferred tax asset as they are generated until utilized to offset income. Valuation allowances may need to be maintained for deferred tax assets that we estimate are more likely than not to be unrealizable, based on available evidence at the time the estimate is made. Valuation allowances related to deferred tax assets can be affected by changes to tax laws, statutory tax rates and future taxable income levels and based on input from our auditors, tax advisors or regulatory authorities. In the event that we were to determine that we would not be able to realize all or a portion of our net deferred tax assets in the future, we would reduce such amounts through a charge to income tax expense in the period in which that determination was made, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations and our ability to maintain profitability.
Distributions to holders of our Class A common stock may be taxable as dividends.
If we make distributions from current or accumulated earnings and profits as computed for U.S. federal income tax purposes, such distributions will generally be taxable to holders of our Class A common stock in the current period as ordinary dividend income for U.S. federal income tax purposes, eligible under current law for the lower tax rates applicable to qualified dividend income of non-corporate taxpayers. While we expect that a portion of our distributions to holders of our Class A common stock may exceed our current and accumulated earnings and profits as computed for U.S. federal income tax purposes and therefore constitute a non-taxable return of capital to the extent of a holder’s basis in our Class A common stock, this may not occur.
Selected abstracts from the 43rd Inter-Noise Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 16-19 November 2014. Click here to download the complete Book of Abstracts – Inter-Noise 2014.
Public participation at measures to reduce noise in Germany
Federal Environment Agency, Germany
An essential part of a modern noise reduction strategy is the involvement of the public. This important approach is implemented in the European Environmental Noise Directive. According to this Directive, noise action plans will be developed with the participation of the public. In Germany, the individual participation in planning processes is increasingly in the focus of public interest and in political discussions. Especially, in context of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the expansion of an airport. The goal-oriented implementation of the participation process and the challenges of an effective participation are demonstrated at prominent examples. Moreover, proposals for a further development of the legal requirements of the public participation at EU as well as international level will be presented. In this context, special consideration is given to measures of a clear and effective participation. The aim of these activities is to achieve a higher acceptance for official decisions of great importance. The involvement of the public in the decision-making process could also have a positive effect on their annoyance reaction because noise is often perceived as less loud if people are directly involved in the process. (full text and e-mail via the above link – ad EU Directive 2002/49/EF 25. June 2002 – see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32002L0049&from=EN).
Noise sensitivity modulates the auditory-cortex discrimination of sound feature changes
Heinonen-Guzejev, Marja; Klyuchko, Marina; Heikkilä, Kauko; Spinosa, Vittoria; Tervaniemi, Mari; Brattico, Elvira
University of Helsinki and Aalto University, Finland
Noise sensitivity refers to physiological and psychological internal states of any individual, which increase the degree of reactivity to noise. There are only few studies on the neural mechanisms underlying noise sensitivity. Mismatch negativity (MMN) is a component of the auditory event-related potential (ERP), generated in the supratemporal lobe of the brain, that is elicited by any discriminable change in some repetitive aspect of the ongoing auditory stimulation. In this study, we recruited 61 healthy adult subjects (age range 19-46 years) and measured their MMN to several sound feature changes inserted in a music-like sequence and administered the noise sensitivity questionnaire. With the help of this method we studied how the neural discrimination of sound changes (as indexed by MMN) is associated with noise sensitivity (as indexed by the questionnaire). The results showed that noise sensitivity had an influence on MMN to sound changes in timbre, with lower MMN responses in individuals with high noise-sensitivity scores than in those with low noise-sensitivity scores. According to the literature available this is the first study on this topic.
What factors are associated with noise sensitivity in the UK population?
Clark, Charlotte; Smuk, Mel; Stansfeld, Stephen; van de Kerckhove, Rik; Notley, Hilary
Queen Mary University of London and Defra, United Kingdom
This paper explores whether certain sub-groups of the UK population are more or less noise sensitive, using the 2012 National Noise Attitude Survey (NNAS 2012) dataset. NNAS 2012 was a community questionnaire survey of 2747 respondents in the UK, which measured attitudes to environmental noise. Data relating to a range of sociodemographic, dwelling, and geographic factors was also collected. Respondents rated how sensitive they were to noise on a seven-point scale ranging from ‘not at all sensitive’ to ‘very sensitive’. Linear effect coding regression analyses were used to develop multivariable models of associations with noise sensitivity. A range of noise sensitivities were reported by the respondents (median = 4). Overall, noise sensitivity was more strongly associated with sociodemographic factors than with dwelling or geographic factors. Age; gender, homeownership, children, employment status, social class, and interviewer rating of hearing problems were associated with noise sensitivity after adjustment for dwelling and geographic factors. The analyses suggest that certain sub-groups of the population may be more or less noise sensitive compared with the UK population as a whole. The policy implications of these findings will be discussed.
Propagation thresholds and measurement of infrasound to establish separation distances from wind farm turbines to residences
Noise Measurement Services, Brisbane, Australia
Of all the issues surrounding noise emissions from wind farms, the question of the potential for annoyance and adverse effects from low frequency sound is one of the most topical. Anecdotal literature is replete with statements concerning the effects of infrasound and low frequency noise. In this paper we present objective methodologies to measure and assess infrasound and low frequency noise in the context of wind farm emissions. The methodologies are reviewed with respect to three wind farms: one each in New Zealand, Victoria (Australia) and South Australia. The South Australian review incorporates data from a recent South Australian EPA wind farm study. The calculations for recommended stand-off distances from wind turbines to residences are presented. The distances are based on the threshold of annoyance and physiological effects threshold anticipated for different turbines and frequencies.
Health in the noise context: the relativity of absolute health
Shepherd, Daniel; Dirks, Kim N.; McBride, David Iain; Welch, David
Auckland University of Technology, University of Auckland, and University of Otago, New Zealand
Noise remains a potent degrader of health in many contexts, capable of inducing severe annoyance and sleep disturbance. However, quantifying the impact of noise on health involves methods that are neither standardized nor always agreed upon. One issue centers on the conceptualization of health, and whether the WHO’s guidelines suggesting that noise impact is best measured using health-related quality of life indices is in fact valid. The WHO recommendation is largely based on the fact that, unlike diseases, disability, terminal illnesses or explicit physical insults, health impacts from noise are more insidious and covert, and difficult to disentangle from other processes impacting function. Arguably, however, the WHO’s 1948 seminal definition of health represents the prerequisites of good health, and does not necessarily provide a definition of health itself. More holistic definitions can be entertained, for example, good health is the ability of an organism to remain viable and successfully engage goal-directed behaviors within a host environment. Acknowledging that how health is conceptualized determines how health is measured, this paper argues that health-related quality of life has been unfairly marginalized in noise research. Furthermore, rather than being an adjunct to biomedical measures, health-related quality of life measures should be central to noise research. Interestingly, the challenging nature of quantifying the impacts of noise upon health provides a context to examine the broader meaning of health and suggest amendments to those advanced by the WHO.
Soundscape planning as a complement to environmental noise management
Brown, Alan Lex
Griffith University, Australia
The role and application of the concepts of soundscape planning, vis-a-vis those of environmental noise management, need elaboration. In noise control, sound is a waste product managed to reduce the immission of sounds that cause human discomfort. The soundscape approach, by contrast, considers the acoustic environment as a resource, focusing on sounds people want, or prefer. Quiet is not a core condition for acoustic preference in the outdoor acoustic environment, but congruence of soundscape and landscape is. So too is that sounds that are wanted are heard above, not masked by, sounds that are unwanted in that particular place and context. Advancement of the soundscape approach will be facilitated by distinguishing it, both conceptually and in practice, from the management of environmental noise. Dimensions of complementarity and difference between the two approaches include: different sound sources of interest in any acoustic environment; human responses to these sounds and outcomes that arise from these responses; measurement techniques and mapping; and appropriate objectives for management, planning and design. Soundscape planning and management augments environmental noise management, expanding the scope for application of the tools of acoustic specialists.
Four electrophysiological studies into noise sensitivity
Shepherd, Daniel; Hautus, Michael J.; Lee, Jenny; Mulgrave, Joe
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Noise sensitivity is present in many clinical populations, describes approximately 20% of the general population, though little is known about its underlying mechanisms. We present findings from four electrophysiological studies designed to expose possible differences in electrophysiological measures between noise sensitive and noise resistant individuals. Noise sensitivity was estimated using self-report measures, while electrophysiological indices included both cardiac (heart rate, heart rate variability) and electroencephalographic (event-related potentials, alpha persistence) measures. All four studies were designed with reference to pre-existing theoretical frameworks. While the findings from all four studies were not definite enough to decide a likely mechanism, they do suggest that electrophysiological investigation of noise sensitivity is viable and in need of further investigation.