United States

United States

Developers get their orders in -- Turbine contracts for 1500 MW

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Wind turbine deals involving some of the industry's largest players last month locked up close to 1500 MW of machinery for installation in the US over the next two years. Invenergy inked a pact that will deliver 600 MW of GE 1.5 MW turbines in 2008, while PPM Energy ordered 400 MW of 2.1 MW turbines from India's Suzlon for delivery in 2008 and 2009. To close the month, Mitsubishi announced a 197 MW order from Airtricity, again for projects in 2008-2009, just two weeks after it reported a 283 MW turbine order from Babcock & Brown.

The largest of the three deals, between Invenergy and GE, is worth roughly $750 million, according to Invenergy's Kevin Smith. Added to a previous deal, the Chicago-based developer has taken on 1200 MW of GE's workhorse 1.5 MW turbines for installation this year and next. Orders have to be placed 12 to 18 months in advance of required delivery to secure GE turbines, says Smith. "So this is to lock in the turbine supply for the projects we intend to build."

Flexibility come 2008

Smith expects the ongoing global equipment shortage to last for at least the next few years. "It could go to 2009 or 2010," he says. "So we expect that's how the 2009 orders will happen -- that we'll still need to order in advance." Smith says that all the 2007 turbines are dedicated to specific projects. "But for the 2008 projects, we're leaving some room for flexibility," he says. "If we find the right small developer who has a project but can't find turbines, we could defer one of our own projects to 2009 and work something out that way." Invenergy has developed and constructed more than 680 MW of wind plant over the past three years.

Suzlon's 400 MW sale to PPM Energy of Portland, Oregon, is the Indian turbine supplier's biggest contract yet. The deal calls for delivery of 300 MW next year and 100 MW in 2009. Suzlon is also contracted for operations, maintenance and service of the turbines for two years with an option for five. The company plans to expand its service territory with new facilities to meet demand.

Suzlon has component production facilities in Belgium, China, India and the US with an annual wind turbine manufacturing capacity of 2700 MW. By the start of 2008, it expects to have boosted that to 4200 MW. "Suzlon has been flexible in working with PPM at the ground level on various technical issues, which has enhanced value to PPM and has forged a strong customer-supplier relationship," says PPM's Terry Hudgens. PPM, the second-leading US developer, is now part of Spanish utility Iberdrola.

Lots in Texas

With its announcement of two orders last month, Mitsubishi is committed to delivering a further 480 MW in the next two years. Babcock & Brown (B&B), listed on the Australian stock exchange, is taking 118 Mitsubishi 2.4 MW units in 2008 for projects in the US southwest. This is in addition to a B&B order for 443 of Mitsubishi's 1 MW units for projects in 2006 and 2007.

The Airtricity order is for 197 Mitsubishi 1 MW machines for projects in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. In Texas, Airtricity, which entered the US market from Ireland in 2003, is currently completing its 209 MW Roscoe Wind Farm, 72 kilometres southwest of Abilene, for which it ordered Mitsubishi 1 MW turbines last year. Roscoe, expected online by the end of the year, is Airtricity's largest wind project to date, says the company's Declan Flanagan. Power is being sold to TXU Wholesale under a five year contract.

The Roscoe project is the second in West Texas which Airtricity co-owns with GE Energy Financial Services. The two are also participating in the operational 125 MW Forest Creek Wind Farm 25 miles southeast of Big Spring. Also operational is Airtricity's 90 MW Sand Bluff wind farm, again near Big Spring. A fourth Airtricity wind plant in Texas, the 126 MW Champion project, is under construction near the Roscoe project site. When all projects are online by the end of the year, Airtricity says it will operate 550 MW of wind capacity in Texas, up from 216 MW today. It also says is has 370 MW under construction in the US in total and another 706 MW in "final stage development" for which it has placed firm orders for turbines.

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