NTR backs €270m US wind farm deal


UTILITY NTR is backing a €270 million wind power project in the US which will be one of the first projects of its kind to benefit from the recently-launched US federal stimulus package.

The Irish business is joining forces with US operator, Wind Capital Group, to invest in building and operating a wind farm at Lost Creek, Missouri.

The plant will generate 150 mega watts (MW) of electricity when it is completed, enough power to supply 50,000 homes, the company said yesterday.

Lost Creek wind farm is being built at a cost of $300 million (€270 million). It is one of the first development projects of its kind to benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly known as the federal stimulus package.

The legislation established a loan guarantee scheme for renewable energy projects such as Lost Creek, which aids their developers in getting credit from the banks. It also allows them to benefit from certain tax breaks.

US vice-president Joe Biden attended the launch of the project in Jefferson City, Missouri, recently.

NTR finance director Michael Walsh said that the Act had given the Irish company and its US partner the confidence to go ahead with the project. He added that the support of both the Obama administration and Congress for renewable energy projects such as Lost Creek had given the industry “significant new impetus”.

Wind Capital will operate the plant. According to its president Tom Carnahan the company already has a deal to sell power to Associated Electric Co-operative Inc (AECI).

AECI sells electricity to six regional and 51 local electricity supply co-operatives across the midwestern US. Mr Carnahan added that this puts the company in a strong position to benefit from the ARRA support schemes.

Wind Capital is a midwestern company which is currently developing wind farms across 16 states in the central US.

It has a policy of using American technology and US giant GE will supply the 100 wind turbines needed for Lost Creek, while another US company, ABB, will supply other equipment.

NTR is an Irish plc focused on renewable energy and waste management. It has operations here, the US and Britain.

The company employs over 4,100 people and is valued at €477.8 million. It was one of the original investors in wind energy specialist, Airtricity, and earned €800 million when that company was sold to Scottish Southern Energy.

Its energy business includes wind, solar power and bio-diesel. In December, the company said that it had profits of €23 million in the six months to last September and €369 million on its balance sheet.