GE, Horizon make wind turbine deal

Horizon Wind Energy LLC, a company that manages wind energy projects, opened its Northeast regional
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Horizon Wind Energy LLC, a company that manages wind energy projects, opened its Northeast regional headquarters in Albany on Tuesday and announced a deal with GE Energy for future U.S. projects.

General Electric will sell 201 1.5-megawatt wind turbines to Horizon to be shipped in 2010. Under a separate two-year agreement, GE will provide operations support, parts and maintenance for those units. Company officials did not disclose the dollar value of the transaction.

“That is a big order. There are about 3,000 turbines a year that we produce. This is close to 10 percent of our annual production,” said Sean Fitzgerald, GE Energy product line leader for the 1.5 megawatt wind turbine.

GE’s new deal with Horizon Energy follows the October announcement of a global framework agreement between GE and Horizon’s parent company, Energias de Portugal, for the supply of 500 megawatts of wind turbines for 2008 and 2009 projects in the United States and Europe.

Horizon Wind Energy Northeast Regional Development Director Patrick Doyle said EDP manages wind energy projects outside of the United States while Horizon focuses solely on the U.S. domestic market. He said his company chose to locate in New York because it is the 15th most windy state and has a large population, energy needs and a friendly attitude toward clean energy.

“It’s also a large dairy farming state, and dairy farmers use their land to produce a renewable resource so they are very open to the idea of hosting a wind turbine or two or three,” Doyle said.

Horizon Energy is looking at five possible locations for new wind farms throughout New York state. Doyle said typically Horizon will come to an agreement with the owners of many adjacent land parcels to create large wind farms that span many acres. He said each wind turbine could mean $10,000 in annual lease revenue paid to land owners.

Horizon Energy’s Albany office has eight employees, most of whom are project managers, Doyle said.

Before a wind farm can be developed, Horizon officials must determine the likely long-term viability of the wind energy supply in a region, navigate local regulatory boards and build millions of dollars in electricity transmission infrastructure and equipment.

“In wind energy, the energy is inexpensive, but the process requires a lot of capital,” Doyle said.

Fitzgerald said the turbines sold to Horizon are manufactured and assembled at different GE plants around the world. He said all of the turbines GE makes will be monitored from the its Erie Boulevard campus in Schenectady.

In July, GE Energy announced a push to hire 150 new white-collar employees to staff the new wind energy product management and customer service center to support its Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady.

“A lot of the senior leadership positions have been filled out. Those folks are in the process of hiring out their teams and building up their staff,” Fitzgerald said of the buildup.

Horizon Wind Energy Chief Executive Officer Antonio Martins da Costa said the proximity of Horizon’s Albany office, GE’s wind service center as well as GE Global Research in Niskayuna, where much wind turbine research and development occurs, reinforces the relationship between the two companies.

“We see strong potential for future wind projects throughout this region, and our new Albany office positions us to better serve this promising market,” da Costa said.

Renewable growth

On Jan. 14, General Electric Co.’s energy investment business, GE Energy Financial Services, announced it would increase its investment in renewable energy by 50 percent to $6 billion by 2010. The most active investment in renewable energy for GE Energy Financial Services is wind, representing about two-thirds of its portfolio, according to company officials. GE Energy Financial Services has invested in Horizon wind farms in Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas.

The four wind farms will annually produce enough electricity to power more than 180,200 average homes in the United States and will avoid nearly 1.4 million tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions, compared with equivalent fossil fuel generation, GE Energy Financial Services said.

GE Energy Financial Services has invested or committed to invest equity in 85 wind farms and increased its global wind equity holdings to more than 3,600 megawatts of generating capacity.

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