Wind Energy Finance Workshop Sheds Light on Complex Landscape

The wind industry cranked up its visibility a few notches this week when AWEA held its Wind Energy Finance & Investment Workshop in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed Wednesday, October 14 Wind Energy Day.

As various events drew the public’s attention around town, wind industry leaders gathered together to shed light on this pivotal time in wind power finance. The consensus among panelists was that the federal grant program created under the economic stimulus package has had a positive effect on the industry as well as the project finance environment. AWEA Director of Industry Data & Analysis Elizabeth Salerno confirmed that notion with a teaser on AWEA’s third-quarter market report, stating that wind power installation numbers between July and September were stronger than expected, thanks to the grant program. (AWEA’s third-quarter industry numbers are scheduled to be released next week.) Still, Salerno noted that the manufacturing side of the industry is still lagging as turbine inventories and previous orders continue to satiate demand for the time being.

In spite of the overall encouraging news, project finance deals remain more elusive (and take longer to get done) than was once the case, developers said at the conference. “Debt deals can get done for certain very high-class projects,” said Horizon Wind Energy Director of Finance David Berry.

By “high class,” Berry was referring to projects that have such attributes as having top-name turbines lined up and power purchase agreements in place. “For everything else, deals can be difficult,” he said, echoing the sentiment of other developers on panels.

But as intriguing as the dialogue was, wind power events outside the walls of the Marriott Marquis proved to be more eye-catching, at least for the public. First, there was the mayor’s Wind Energy Day proclamation. In addition, just outside the doors of the hotel where the Finance & Investment Workshop was held, the thousands of tourists, city residents, and businesspeople who filed through Times Square saw video on one of the square’s famous giant screens depicting the power of wind and sharing facts about the industry.

AWEA video in Times Square by American Wind Energy Association.

The reach of the industry spanned from the Midtown site of the Finance & Investment Workshop all the way to the financial district at the lower tip of Manhattan. Capping the eventful Wind Energy Day, AWEA CEO Denise Bode joined other AWEA staff and industry leaders in sounding the closing bell at the NASDAQ exchange. Incidentally, Wind Energy Day also happened to be the day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 10,000 for the first time in more than a year.

The previous day, in a show of wind power’s growing prominence within the financial community, AWEA held its first Analyst Day. Through presentations from industry leaders, the filled room of current and potential wind investors and other participants got a taste of the diversity of players within the wind industry, from multinational companies investing massive amounts of financial resources in the North American market to independent U.S. developers more dependent on outside capital.

More photos of the events around New York are available online.

This article first appeared in the October 16th edition of Wind Energy Weekly, the American Wind Energy Association’s weekly newsletter, and was reprinted with permission from AWEA.

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Carl is Editor & Publications Manager at the American Wind Energy Association, where has worked since 2006. At AWEA he oversees AWEA's online and print publications including the Wind Energy Weekly, Windpower Update, and other products. He has worked as a journalist in the energy industry as a staff writer for Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine and in the association sector as senior editor at Association Management magazine. He also has covered the home-building industry, where his areas of greatest interest were sustainable development and "smart growth," and has written articles for numerous other publications as a freelance writer. Carl received his B.A. from James Madison University and spent some time in New Orleans teaching as well as working with homeless youth.

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