United States

United States

Analysis: NPS looks to Asia for expansion

UNITED STATES: Northern Power Systems (NPS) is discussing strategic relationships for both its turbines with "several" potential Asian partners, said the firm's president and CEO, Troy Patton. Of the suitors, Japanese and South Korean tie-ups look especially promising, he said.

NPS's 2.2MW turbine
NPS's 2.2MW turbine

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The Vermont-based firm's technology would likely be used in those countries for both onshore and offshore applications. One or more deals should be announced within the next year, said Patton, who was set to travel to Asia in August. India is also of great interest, although as of mid-June, NPS was not in active talks with potential partners there.

NPS, a pure-play original equipment manufacturer that also helps clients with grid integration issues, has already licensed its technology non-exclusively to China First Heavy Industries for offshore use in China. The Chinese firm, for which this is the first foray into wind, will likely develop an "intermediate" 5-6 MW machine, said Patton, and then scale up from there.

Brazilian partnership

In Brazil, NPS's strategic partnership with WEG Equipamentos Elétricos SA has recently progressed. In May, NPS formally said it is developing a 3.3MW wind turbine with WEG. The platform will be the first specifically developed for Brazil, said NPS. WEG already had exclusive rights to sell wind turbines based on NPS's 2.1 MW design in Brazil and non-exclusive rights elsewhere in South America.

The 3.3MW machine, to be co-designed in the US and Brazil, will be permanent magnet and direct-drive (PMDD). Blades may be developed specifically for Brazil's strong but non-turbulent winds, said Patton. Such a wind regime allows for larger rotors on a smaller generator, especially with PMDD architecture and thus no need for powertrain management, he said.

The development of the 3.3 MW turbine is part of an agreement between WEG and Tractebel Energia, whose major shareholder is GDF Suez Group, under the Brazilian National Electrical Energy Agency (Aneel) research and development programme. The turbine should be on the market within two years, according to Patton.

Of the potential in the Middle East and Africa, Patton said: "We've got to pick our battles. We're a tiny company in Vermont, and that's not a battle we are fighting right now."

NPS's European sales are mostly of its smaller turbines. Patton said the firm is currently looking at several projects in North America and Europe of 20-40MW. "They tend to be smaller projects. We are not bidding against GE and Vestas," he said. Clients might be co-operatives or municipal utilities that need expertise in integrating wind with fossil fuels or diesel.

In April, NPS raised $22.3 million and listed its common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange through a transaction with a Canadian capital pool company, Mira III Acquisition Corp. Patton said there was an appetite for shares in a small renewables company in Canada whereas there was not in the US or Europe.

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