First major Chinese project takes shape

UNITED STATES: Goldwind USA, the American arm of the Chinese turbine maker, is in talks over financing of the landmark 106.5MW Shady Oaks project in Illinois. Shady Oaks is the first major wind project using Chinese turbines in the US - Goldwind's 1.5MW direct-drive permanent-magnet turbines.

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The project-financing structure will be watched closely. Goldwind turbines have little track record in the US or Europe, so conventional financing might be hard to secure. To finance a US project, bankers usually prefer to see turbines qualify for a standard of 100 turbine years at 95% availability on US soil, where the conditions differ from those in China (see page 49).

Tim Rosenzweig, CEO of Goldwind USA, says the company is in discussions with a number of banks, both Chinese and non-Chinese, regarding construction, tax equity and permanent financing. He expects financing to be in place in time to start construction in late spring or early summer.

Goldwind completed its acquisition of Shady Oaks from Irish developer Mainstream Renewable Power in December. Mainstream will remain a partner while the project is developed.

Construction of Shady Oaks should be complete by the end of 2011. The project would thus be eligible for a cash payment equal to 30% of project costs under a grant programme introduced by the Recovery Act, which was passed in 2009 to stimulate the US economy. To be eligible, 5% of a project must be completed by the end of 2011. Rosenzweig declined to comment on whether Goldwind might seek public financing under the act - an issue that could be politically sensitive.

In December, Goldwind and Mainstream announced they had won a competitive bid to provide power from the project to utility Commonwealth Edison from 2012. The project is to cost $150-$200 million.

Goldwind has completed a 4.5MW pilot project in Pipestone, Minnesota - its first US project - which started operating in January 2010.

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