Wind Project Financing Structures: A Review & Comparative Analysis

This report from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory was released in September, 2007. The report, titled "Wind Project Financing Structures: A Review & Comparative Analysis," was authored by John Harper (Birch Tree Capital, LLC), Matt Karcher (Deacon Harbor Financial, L.P.), and Mark Bolinger (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program.

The rapid expansion in the U.S. wind power industry over the past few years has required the mobilization of a tremendous amount of capital. In 2007 alone, for example, an estimated $6 billion will be invested in new wind projects in the U.S. To attract this kind of capital, the wind power sector has, in recent years, developed multiple financing structures to manage project risk and allocate Federal tax incentives to those entities that can use them most efficiently. These structures are the underlying focus of this report.

Specifically, the purpose of this report is three-fold: (1) to survey recent trends in the financing of utility-scale wind projects in the United States, (2) to describe in some detail the seven principal financing structures through which most utility-scale wind projects (excluding utility-owned projects) have been financed from 1999 to the present, and (3) to help understand the impact of these seven structures on the levelized cost of energy from wind power.

The seven structures -- which range from simple balance-sheet finance to several varieties of all-equity partnership "flip" structures to leveraged structures -- feature varying combinations of equity capital from project developers and third-party tax-oriented investors, and in some cases commercial debt. Their origins stem from variations in the financial capacity and business objectives of wind project developers, coupled with the investment risk tolerance and objectives of the tax-oriented investors and debt providers.

The full report (including an executive summary) can be downloaded from:
http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/emp/reports/63434.pdf

In addition, a high-level PowerPoint summary of the document is available at:
http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/emp/reports/63434-ppt.pdf

[Text of this item is adapted with minor changes from from a 09/2007 LBNL press release.]