Cape Wind is poised to take another step in securing the financial underpinnings for its proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm.
The project, which is expected to cost $2.6 billion, will be financed through a combination of equity from investors and loans from banks and other institutions.
The company will tap the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the lead bank in securing debt for the project, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said at a renewable power finance conference last week in New York.
The multinational bank, which is based in Japan, is expected to coordinate $1.8 billion to $2 billion in debt financing for the project, according to Power Intelligence, a financial publication specializing in the energy industry.
The bank is also expected to convert a federal production tax credit into cash.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers declined to comment on the decision aside from confirming the statements Gordon made at the conference.
Representatives with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.
A lead bank typically recruits other banks or institutions that will issue bonds for a project, said Edward Zaelke, a board member with the American Wind Energy Association and co-chairman of the project finance practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
“The lead bank typically takes a large financial interest,” Zaelke said.
Given the high cost of Cape Wind, several banks will need to be lined up, Zaelke said, adding that the process could take between 30 and 90 days from when the lead bank is named.
Cape Wind officials have said they hope to begin construction this year, which is necessary for the company to benefit from the federal production tax credit that expires Dec. 31.
That timeline is reasonable assuming the loan documents are completed by the summer, Zaelke said.
The debt side of the equation is only part of how Cape Wind plans to pay for constructing 130 wind turbines in the Nantucket Sound.
The company needs at least an additional $600 million in equity, $100 million of which may come from Siemens Energy Inc., the company that will provide the turbines for the project, Rodgers said.
“They have made that commitment and of course it is subject to finalizing mutually satisfactory terms and conditions,” he said.
Siemens has been selected as the “preferred supplier” for the project’s 3.6-megawatt turbines and the electrical service platform, as well as for operation and maintenance, Siemens spokesman Alfons Benzinger wrote in an email to the Times.
“In order to further support the project, Siemens is prepared to invest along with other third-party equity providers in this project but this still is subject to final financing conditions,” Benzinger wrote.
A turbine manufacturer taking an equity stake in a wind energy project is not unusual, Zaelke said.
In addition to the private debt and equity the Department of Energy is considering a loan guarantee for the project. An application by the company for a $2 billion DOE loan guarantee was put on hold in 2011 and the new request is expected to be much smaller.
The possibility of a loan guarantee for the project has drawn criticism from Cape Wind’s opponents and Republicans who point to $535 million in federal loans to bankrupt solar energy giant Solyndra.
Cape Wind officials are also still looking for a buyer for about a quarter of the wind farm’s power, although the company could move forward with a smaller project if necessary.
National Grid has agreed to buy 50 percent of Cape Wind’s power and NStar has agreed to buy 27.5 percent of the power, both at a starting price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour.
An annual 3.5 percent increase will kick in starting in 2014, raising the cost of Cape Wind’s power over 19 cents per kilowatt-hour.
If Cape Wind does not begin construction by the end of 2015, the power purchase agreements with NStar and National Grid will be terminated, according to an amendment to the National Grid contract filed last week.
While Cape Wind supporters say the price is small when mixed with the cost of other sources of power the utilities buy and spread across all of the companies’ customers, opponents of the project continue to rail against what they see as the project’s exorbitant cost to consumers.
Audra Parker, president and CEO of the primary anti-Cape Wind group the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the choice of a lead bank to organize loans for the project is subterfuge to make the project look more viable than it is.
“To me it seems like no news and another example of deals or announcements that Cape Wind makes that don’t come through,” she said.
Cape Wind still faces legal challenges, four of which have been consolidated into one lawsuit contesting federal approvals.
Another pending suit focuses on the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of Cape Wind.
“Cape Wind continues to be a risky project with little or no chance of ever being built,” Parker said.
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