Analysis - Goldwind looks to fill Rosenzweig's shoes

UNITED STATES: Goldwind USA will announce an interim CEO "soon", a company representative said yesterday. This comes after former CEO Tim Rosenzweig unexpectedly chose to leave the company after his three-year contract expired.

A Goldwind 2.5MW turbine at the Shady Oaks wind farm in Illinois

Rosenzweig, who has been credited with making the Chinese turbine manufacturer a credible force in the Americas, left the company on 11 October.

Goldwind declined to comment on why Rosenzweig left, who is being appointed next, or whether a permanent replacement would be from the Americas or from China. However, there should be no shortage of applicants. According to one industry source, plenty of experienced wind executives are currently seeking jobs because there has been so much "churn" in the industry.

For the time being, Goldwind has appointed chief financial officer David Halligan as interim CEO.

On 4 November, Rosenzweig starts his new role as chief financial officer at SolarReserve, a growing Californian solar developer with equity backing from Google for a 96MW photovoltaics project in South Africa. Rosenzweig was formerly CFO at First Wind and worked for a Nomura-backed private-equity fund.

Rosenzweig joined Goldwind USA in 2010 and helped make it the leading Chinese entrant to the Americas in terms of capacity installed and reputation. The American-staffed company shouldered the risk of building US wind projects itself.

Under Rosenzweig's leadership, Goldwind also built the first large-scale wind project in America using Chinese turbines, the 109.5MW Shady Oaks plant, sold to Canada's Algonquin Power and Utilities albeit for a relatively low price of $148.9 million. And this summer, Goldwind closed $71 million in financing with western lenders for a project in Panama.

Then in September, Goldwind's Vensys-designed 1.5MW turbine clinched a first for a Chinese-made turbine by getting GL Garrad Hassan's "commercially proven" criterion for North America.

Yet Rosenzweig's successor will face an American market that is shrinking, although it is expected to start stabilising next year. US market share is, at the same time, consolidating around the top three turbine makers, GE, Siemens and Vestas, noted Matt DaPrato, a wind analyst at IHS Emerging Energy Research. Doubts remain about Chinese wind turbines, specifically regarding manufacturing quality and warranty backing, DaPrato added.

A major hurdle facing any future Goldwind CEO is the breakneck pace of technological innovation by these "big three" OEMs, with Vestas and GE announcing new turbines — the GE 1.7MW and Vestas V110 2MW — specifically targeting the US market over the last year.

SolarReserve, which located Rosenzweig through executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, is a privately held, venture-backed company that is developing projects in California, Arizona and Colorado, and in South Africa, the Middle East, Australia, China and Latin America.

"Bringing in someone who has been involved with financing in the tax equity markets makes sense for a growing solar firm," said Wade Shafer, solar analyst at IHS Emerging Energy Research. The US's 30% investment tax credit for solar does not expire until 2016, whereas a wind project is only eligible for the production tax credit if construction starts in before the end of 2013.