United States

United States

Ørsted buys US firm Lincoln Clean Energy

UNITED STATES: Danish wind developer Ørsted has re-entered the onshore wind sector by acquiring Lincoln Clean Energy (LCE) for $580 million (€500 million).

Lincoln Clean Energy has installed over 500MW in the US across three states
Lincoln Clean Energy has installed over 500MW in the US across three states

LCE has installed more than 500MW of onshore wind and solar PV across three US states, with a further 300MW under construction and a 1.5GW pipeline, Ørsted explained. 

It has developed more than 1.5GW of operating wind capacity in the US, much of which has been sold on to third parties.

Notably, LCE developed the 253MW Amazon Wind Farm Texas site, comprising 100 GE Renewable Energy turbines. It is owned by online retailer Amazon to power a data centre. 

The Danish firm said LCE’s current management team will continue to run the business, which will remain a standalone unit outside of Ørsted’s wind division.

The deal between Ørsted and LCE owner I Squared Capital is expected to close before the end of the year.

Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Ørsted said: "The global market for onshore wind power is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and the US is a leading onshore wind market.

"The acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy will provide a strong growth platform in the US, which is one of Ørsted's strategic growth markets.

"It is an investment case with healthy economics based on prudent assumptions about key value drivers and market developments," he added.

I Squared Capital acquired LCE in January 2016 for an undisclosed fee.

At the time, LCE said I Squared would allow up to $250 million to be invested into renewables by 2018.

In December 2014, Ørsted (then Dong Energy) ended its involvement in onshore wind with the divestment of its final two shareholdings.

It signalled its intention to quit onshore wind to focus on the offshore market in 2013. 

In its annual results, published in February 2018, Poulsen said he was investigating onshore wind and solar opportunities once more. 

Speaking with journalists at the time, Poulsen explained the firm was under much tigher financial pressure in 2013 when it decided to sell onshore wind assets and focus on offshore wind developments.

Since then, Poulsen said, the company has improved its financial situation, and is looking to expand its operational portfolio as part of its strategy to become an entirely green power generator.

"We would only enter onshore wind if we can acquire a strong development platform in the market. There will be a strict value-creation criteria," Poulsen said in February.

The acquisition is a confidence boost for the US onshore wind industry, which faced a couple of years of uncertainty following the phase-out of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in 2021, the key driver for wind in the US over the last two decades. 

With Ørsted's move back in to the onshore space coming in the US, it shows there will remain an appetite for wind in the world's second-largest market. 

Speaking to journalists today (9 August), Poulsen said the falling levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of onshore wind will mean it remains competitive even after the PTC expires. 

Poulsen added the role of corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) will be an increasingly important aspect of the industry.

LCE's experience with them — such as the deal with Amazon and most recently with food producer JM Smucker in Nebraska — was partly what attracted Ørsted to the takeover. 

Results

Ørsted also announced its H1 financial results for 2018.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) increased 11% year-on-year to DKK 8.6 billion (€1.15 billion), driven by its wind business.

"The solid results from our offshore wind business continued into the second quarter with increased earnings from our operating assets and continued strong progress on our construction projects," Poulsen said.

The developer's wind power business generated DKK 7 billion in Ebitda, up from DKK 6.3 billion in 2017. Revenue for H1 totalled DKK 14.5 billion, a 34% increase year-on-year.

In its results presentation, the company noted the sale of a 50% stake in its Hornsea Project One offshore wind site in the UK is expected to take place before the end of 2018.

Ørsted's Q2 Ebitda fell to DKK 3.1 billion from DKK 4.4 billion in Q2 2017. This was the result of a particularly high total last year impacted by the deferred sale of a wind farm, Poulsen explained. 

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