United States

United States

American firm goes for listing in London -- Clipper seeks equity providers to finance turbine manufacture

United States wind project developer Clipper Windpower hopes to raise £60 million on the London Stock exchange's Alternative Investment Market this summer to capitalise a foray into manufacturing wind turbines of its own design in the US and later in Europe. It is the first time a wind turbine manufacturer has gone to the London capital markets.

Founder and CEO Jim Dehlsen says he chose the London AIM exchange, which is geared to raising capital for growing companies, because of its familiarity with the wind power business. More than 70% of the global wind power market was in Europe last year.

"Europe is pretty much the centre for the financing of wind products," says Dehlsen. "The financial markets have analysts who are up to speed on the technology and market. The capital markets are much more in tune to the renewable market...The US continues to lag."

Dehlsen says Clipper is moving ahead with plans to open its first US manufacturing facility in an existing 50,000 square foot building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and hopes to see the first turbine completed by mid-October. Dehlsen says about half the expected 150 turbines to be completed in the plant's first year have been presold.

The turbine will be Clipper's new 2.5 MW design, which it says is capable of operating at full power with wind speeds averaging below six metres a second (13 miles per hour). Dehlsen plans to unveil details of the machine at this month's American Wind Energy Association conference and will ferry interested parties via helicopter from the conference in Denver, Colorado, to the prototype installed at Medicine Bow, Wyoming.

In Europe, Dehlsen says, the company's London headquarters will be in charge of Clipper's entry into offshore wind turbines. The London office opened last year and is headed by former Tory cabinet minister Colin Moynihan, who among other posts was also energy minister. The Clipper turbine design will be "marinised" for use offshore in Europe, Dehlsen says. "We should be ready by mid-next year." Dehlsen adds that the company hopes to develop a 4 MW-7.5 MW offshore turbine that would be available by 2008.

The new turbine is "really the reason I have come back into the [manufacturing] business," Dehlsen says. "Over the last 20 years the industry has essentially made machines larger with the same conventional layout. This takes it to a different level and is the way forward to even larger-scale machines." Dehlsen founded Zond, a major Californian wind project developer in the 1980s which installed hundreds of Vestas turbines, before developing its own turbine. Zond was bought by Enron Wind before the fallen energy giant sold its wind division to GE Energy.

Clipper Windpower will continue to develop its own wind projects. Dehlsen says the model of manufacturing turbines and developing projects is one that served him well when he headed Zond. Clipper is in the development business, because "it's a really nice way" to stabilise the turbine design process, he says, since the company can install the new turbines in its own developments.

Dehlsen says Clipper Windpower's expansion into Europe is a natural extension. "With Zond, we were very much an international company," he says. "Wind really does require that you have a presence in the major markets."

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