Irish investment in Midwest developer -- Ex Airtricity owner back in US wind

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Flush with the proceeds from the sale of its 51% stake in Airtricity to utility giants E.ON and Scottish & Southern Energy, Ireland's National Toll Roads (NTR) has re-entered the United States wind power market with a $150 million controlling investment in Missouri-based Wind Capital Group (WCG). The money has secured delivery of 150 MW of GE wind turbines in 2010 to feed WCG's pipeline, which the companies state is around 2000 MW in eight states, predominantly in the Midwest.

WCG, with president Tom Carnahan, put itself on the wind industry map in recent years by partnering with John Deere on first wind projects in Missouri. With John Deere as a major equity partner, the two companies developed three wind plants in the 50 MW range, and a 5 MW project that feeds power directly to a rural town. All four projects are operational and use Suzlon wind turbines.

WCG does make clear to what degree John Deere will continue to partner with it now that NTR is an owner. "John Deere has been a great partner with us and we hope to have the opportunity to work with them in the future," says Tony Wyche, speaking for WCG.

While the bulk of WCG's projects are not intended for community ownership, the company emphasizes its focus on building trust in the localities in which it deploys projects. "We do not view community and commercial as being mutually exclusive," says Wyche. "Our unique business model treats them as two sides of the same coin. It is our emphasis on building partnerships with the communities we serve that allows us to develop wind energy on a commercial scale."

Wyche says NTR will provide the financial backing and access to wind turbines to move the company into a new level of development beyond the Midwest. WCG intends to become a national wind project developer.

Along with NTR's investment in wind power, the company also paid $100 million for a 51% interest in US-based Stirling Energy Systems, a concentrating solar thermal power company. NTR's biodiesel interests have not fared so well. Its German biodiesel subsidiary, Emerald Biodiesel Holdings, has filed for insolvency, citing a loss of EUR 35 million, according to press reports.

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