First Wind-Emera JV given official go ahead

UNITED STATES: Regulators in Maine have given the official go ahead to the joint venture (JV) set up by First Wind and Emera to develop wind projects, after it was previously held up by a court order.

First Wind operates a number of projects in Maine, including Mars Hill

The initial approval of the JV by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) was cancelled by the state supreme court after it found the regulator's processes to be insufficient.

The MPUC then met in July and agreed in principal to once again grant approval. It has now confirmed its approval in a written statement to Emera and First Wind.

Canadian energy firm Emera has already invested $225 million in the partnership, which operates 419MW of wind projects. It was set up with a view to injecting up to $1 billion into new projects over a decade. Emera took on half of the joint venture through its investment while First Wind retained responsibility for the development of the wind projects.

The Maine supreme court found earlier this year that the MPUC's original approval of the deal two years ago was improper and ordered the regulator to look again at the joint venture. The court raised fears that the arrangement was anti-competitive due to Emera's ownership of the transmission network to which the joint venture's wind farms would have access.

It argued that since Emera operates parts of the grid and could favour generation from certain plants, including the wind projects being developed with First Wind, this could prove anti-competitive.

But the companies held throughout that because Emera does not own a controlling stake in the new power generation company, and the MPUC-imposed conditions on the deal to insulate ratepayers from any adverse affect, the regulator had taken sufficient counterbalancing measures.

There are a number of projects at different stages of development under the joint venture. The 148MW Oakfield wind farm is currently under construction, while the 186MW Bingham and 51MW Hancock projects are going through the consenting process.