United States

United States

Goldwind continues credibility push

UNITED STATES: China's second-largest turbine maker Goldwind has gained a stronger foothold in the US and is on track to become the first credible Chinese manufacturer active in a mature wind-energy market.

But as a relative newcomer, it must still convince US developers and 'tier 1' finance.

Last month, Goldwind announced it would supply 20MW of its direct-drive, permanent-magnet turbines to two projects in Musselshell, Montana. According to Goldwind, the order is for 12 turbines, suggesting that not all of them will be its 1.5MW machine.

Goldwind also bought the projects from Volkswind USA, part of Germany's Volkswind, with the purchase financed by Goldwind Capital.

A week earlier, Goldwind announced 4.5MW of new US orders from Enel Green Power North America, Wind Energy Developers, and Debenham Energy. "Goldwind has 207.5MW of third-party turbine sales and acquisition deals in the Americas - (including) 156.5MW in the US across 13 projects," said Goldwind USA CEO Tim Rosenzweig. "We expect to announce more sales in the near future."

Goldwind is also to open a sales office in Latin America within a "number of months", according to Goldwind USA vice president of sales Matthew Olive, speaking at the US-China wind conference in San Francisco in December 2011.

The manufacturer's US foothold includes the 4.5MW pilot Uilk project in Minnesota and 109.5MW Shady Oaks in Illinois, to be completed this quarter. Uilk has operated at above 97% availability, said Rosenzweig. In addition, Goldwind recently announced 34.5MW and 15MW orders in Chile and Ecuador. The Chile sale is for a project owned by Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power. It will be the first Western-owned project to use non-recourse financing from China Development Bank (CDB).

Leading the way

"Goldwind is leaps and bounds ahead of other Chinese players seeking entrance into the Americas," said Caitlin Pollock, senior Asia wind-energy analyst with IHS Emerging Energy Research. "Goldwind has leveraged Chinese financing, lower cost advantages and, in some cases, extended warranties." Pollock said Goldwind's strength lies in its willingness to buy projects - not just sell turbines - its strong focus on localisation, both in its supply chain and human resources, and its strong emphasis on building a commercially operated project.

A publicly traded firm, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Company has a US$6 billion credit line from the CDB and internal financing from Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment. Goldwind plans to sell CNY 4 billion ($633 million) of bonds this month, reported Bloomberg in January.

A turbine must have at least 100 operating years in US conditions before financers and engineering certifiers consider it bankable for US application. "Given the promising rate of order intake in 2011 and our optimism for 2012, we expect that we could cross (that) threshold in early 2013," said Rosenzweig.

For any manufacturer seeking acceptance in a mature wind market such as the US, project execution must also be excellent, said Dan Shreve, director at Make Consulting. "Commercial deployment is critical," he said. IHS Emerging Energy Research analyst Pollock agreed, noting that recent project purchases may have been a near-term way for Goldwind to broaden its foothold, managing its brand positioning and demonstrating its technology. However, the purchases also "highlight (Goldwind's) remaining distance to product bankability in mature markets", she said.

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