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BP Selling US Wind Unit, Pares Renewable Energy Interests to Fuels

BP is getting out of the wind industry in the U.S., following its exit from solar barely a year ago, in a broader shift back to its oil and gas roots. BP spokesperson Mark Salt characterized the move as "a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company and re-position the company for sustainable growth into the future."

BP's wind businesses here in the U.S. encompasses 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity spread across 16 farms in operation across nine states: Texas (4), Indiana (3), Colorado (2), Kansas (2), California, South Dakota, Idaho, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Another 2 GW or so of projects in development "are nearly shovel-ready," according to the company.

Matt Hartwig, a spokesperson for BP America and its Alternative Energy business, emphasized that "this is not an exit from alternative energy," pointing to ethanol production sites in Brazil and the U.K., as well as biofuel research efforts in the U.S. and U.K. BP also supports several other biofuel research initiatives such as the Energy Biosciences Institute, a joint initiative between BP, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Illinois. It plans to continue investing in "new, cutting-edge companies" developing efficient energy technologies for both renewable and conventional energy production.

These ethanol and biofuel programs specifically pertain to transportation fuels, so essentially this represents an end to BP's pursuit of renewable energy as it pertains to electricity generation. BP was one of the solar industry's longtime players before deciding to shut down those operations in late 2011, stating that solar was no longer a money-making business. Outside the U.S. wind business, BP has a small wind farm in the U.K. but it's operated by a separate business unit. The company sold off its wind power interests in India in 2009.

BP pledged in 2005 to invest $8 billion dollars over 10 years on alternative energy, and through 2011 had spent about $7 billion of that — more than half of it in the U.S. Meanwhile, BP has invested more than $55 billion over the last five years alone in U.S. energy development overall.

Divestment of the U.S. wind business will depend on what "attractive offers" are received, according to Hartwig. With some back-of-the-napkin math, Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates BP's U.S. wind portfolio is worth roughly $4-$5 billion, assuming a value per wind farm of $1.5-$2.0 million per megawatt. Projects in BP's pipeline would be worth far less ($15,000-$200,000) depending on precisely how "shovel-ready" they are.

Lead image: Room with green exit lamp via Shutterstock

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