The wind industry’s new mantra: Mine is bigger than yours.
It must be a Texas thing. Italy’s Enel SpA and GE Energy Financial Services just finished a wind farm in Snyder, TX, that boasts the tallest turbines in the U.S. The massive towers soar 345 feet to take advantage of higher sustained wind speeds at altitude.
Snyder’s 63-megawatt farm is the first in the U.S. to use the giant 3-megawatt turbines, which have gained traction elsewhere in the world. Most other U.S projects use turbines about half as big. Like Sweetwater, just down the road from the Snyder farm: The sprawling complex is the biggest in the U.S. by capacity, even if it can’t boast of similar-sized equipment.
What’s interesting is GE’s growing agnosticism on whose blades it buys. GE Energy is the biggest U.S. maker of wind turbines, but GE Energy Financial Services is ponying up an undisclosed amount of cash to work with Enel at Snyder and in Smoky Hills, Kansas—and both windfarms use turbines made by Denmark’s Vestas, one of GE Energy’s rivals.
In both cases, the explanation can be found in the growing consolidation sweeping the sector.
The Snyder windfarm was originally developed by Windkraft Nord USA, the U.S. arm of a German wind-farm developer that worked with Vestas since its inception. WKN sold Snyder to Enel in 2006, part of an avalanche of acquisitions by European companies desperate to get a foothold in the fast-growing but highly-fragmented U.S. wind power market. Smoky Hills was planned by TradeWind Energy LLC, which Enel gobbled up last year. Spanish and Portuguese utilities also went hunting with a string of U.S. acquisitions last year.
Even without guaranteed government price support, the U.S. wind power sector has been the world’s hottest for three years running. GE Energy Financial Services, which manages $2 billion in renewable-energy assets, appears to have decided that grabbing market share is worth moving beyond GE’s own metal.
Posted by Keith Johnson
10 January 2008
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