Apex Clean Energy: Acquisitor success

UNITED STATES: Apex Clean Energy, the independent renewables company specialising in taking on projects that have stalled, has amassed a 10GW wind portfolio that includes Ikea's first North American wind investment.

The 300MW Canadian HIlls project was the first Apex brought online

When Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy was founded in 2009, times were tough for US wind developers. Power prices had fallen, power purchase agreements were hard to come by and capital was scarce and expensive. Projects that had started development were stalled. "There was the opportunity to acquire projects and to give them a chance to move forward," says Apex president Mark Goodwin.

Five years later, after completing more than 20 merger-and-acquistion deals and some of its own development, Apex has a portfolio of 10GW of wind projects across 21 states. The firm has bought assets from some bigger wind players that are shifting their portfolios, but its main focus is on developers that need help getting projects across the finish line. "Our model is to partner with smaller developers that have good projects but haven't got the track record or expertise to get them to construction," Goodwin says.

Apex brings significant experience. Its CEO, Sandy Reisky, founded Greenlight Energy, a wind developer acquired by BP in 2006. When he started Apex, he brought in Greenlight alumnus Jim Trousdale as chief financial officer. Goodwin came to Apex from Horizon Wind Energy, another independent wind-power producer, bought by Portugal's EDP Renewables in 2007. Before that he was North American sales manager for Vestas.

In late 2012, the company brought online its first wind project, the 300MW Canadian Hills in Oklahoma, and plans to install more than 1GW in 2015. "We're setting our goal at trying to bring online 1GW a year," says Goodwin.

The projects on its books range from the 50MW Collinsville in Alabama to the 800MW Colorado City project in Arizona. Apex sees opportunity in areas like the Texas Gulf coast, where turbines generate in higher-priced peak hours, and in states facing coal-fired generation retirements. It is also tapping into non-traditional markets such as the growing ranks of corporate consumers looking to buy renewable energy to meet their sustainability and climate goals. Apex is building the 98MW Hoopeston project in Illinois, purchased by Ikea earlier this year in the Swedish furniture giant's first wind investment in the US.

Apex, which sold 99% of Canadian Hills to Atlantic Power, has an agreement to operate Hoopeston for Ikea. It means adding an asset management capability to its project development work, an area of future expansion as Apex builds out its portfolio. "We're up to 100 people now," says Goodwin. "We will have to grow that team as the asset management piece grows, so the size of the company will continue to increase."

Goodwin expects that Apex will continue to look to sell projects as they come into operation, keeping a minority stake and taking charge of operations. "One route for Apex would be to go into a pure ownership model, but I think right now we like the path we're on, which is to develop, build, operate, own a little, and keep working to bring new projects to market."