GE invests $65M in wind farm in Oklahoma

GE Energy Financial Services in Stamford has taken a $65 million stake in a 152-megawatt wind farm near Woodward, Okla., and it is pursuing an energy purchase agreement for a proposed hydroelectric plant in British Columbia, Canada.

CPV Renewable Energy Co., an affiliate of Competitive Power Ventures Inc., has started construction of the CPV Keenan II wind farm, with the goal of finishing it by December. The wind power project has secured a 20-year power purchase agreement with Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., and is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 45,000 average Oklahoma homes.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection methodology, the wind energy project will avoid about 413,000 tons a year of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of taking nearly 72,000 cars off the road — by generating electricity with wind power rather than fossil fuels.

The GE unit has the option of investing $100 million more in partnership equity when commercial operations begin.

"Once completed, we have the opportunity to own a large chunk of the wind farm," said Andy Katell, spokesman for GE Energy Financial Services. "We’re active across a wide range of renewable energy technology. In this country, most of our investment has been in wind turbines because it’s a mature technology."

GE, also a major manufacturer of wind power equipment, is a partner with Fotowatio, a Spain-based solar power project developer.

Estimated to cost $319 million, the wind farm project also has $212 million in financing arranged by The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Union Bank, Key Bank, Helaba, LBBW, Natixis and Rabo Bank.

GE has become a leading player in the wind turbine industry, said David Downie, director of the Program on the Environment at Fairfield University, adding that the bet that GE made on alternative energy and the Ecomagination strategy is starting to see results.

"Behind that was real thinking about a marketing opportunity. More sustainable technology is definitely a part of that overall strategy," he said. "This investment (in the Oklahoma wind farm) is important in this economic climate. In the long term, it makes financial sense."

GE Energy Financial Services and Plutonic Power Corp. are continuing talks with BC Hydro on an energy purchase agreement for the proposed Upper Toba Valley hydroelectric project in British Columbia. BC Hydro, the region’s local electricity delivery company, has said that it intends to award contracts under its Clean Power Call this month.

"If successful, this would be Plutonic’s and GE Energy Financial Services’ third project in B.C.," Donald McInnes, vice chairman and chief executive officer of Plutonic Power, said in a statement. "In one year, we expect to have two projects on line — the 196-megawatt run-of-river Toba Montrose Project and the 144-megawatt Dokie Wind Project, and if awarded an energy purchase agreement and, if other approvals are secured, to start construction on the Upper Toba Project."

By Richard Lee,