United Wind gets $200m to scale wind financing model

Forum Equity Partners’ investment will allow the company to expand west and build around 1,000 turbines for rural homes and businesses.

Toronto-based alternative asset manager Forum Equity Partners has invested $200 million in developer United Wind to scale up its pioneering financing model for residential and commercial wind turbines.

The investment allows United Wind to take its distributed wind leasing model from “proof of concept and scale it to a level” where it can be competitive with other clean energy technologies, chief executive Russell Tencer told sister publication Low Carbon Energy Investor.

“It proves the asset class is viable and attractive to project finance investors and I think it’s just the beginning of a story,” Tencer said. “With this first large investment, we can start to scale up our operations. We can start to bring down further the levelised cost of energy from distributed wind.”

United Wind received a $13.5 million investment from US Bank and New York Green Bank last October that Tencer said would help build around 70 wind projects. Forum’s investment will help build about 1,000 turbines and expand its operations from the northeast into New Mexico, Minnesota and Iowa.

Like the financing model that has helped rooftop solar succeed in the US, United Wind is offering installation and maintenance for up to 100-kilowatt (KW) turbines through a fixed-rate, 20-year lease with no upfront costs. United Wind’s customers have come from rural communities where a wind turbine in a backyard or for an agriculture operation is “the right tool for the job”.

“If we’re doing a 100KW turbine, the footprint is about 100 square feet, 10 by 10 for the turbine. For a similar-sized solar array that’s ground-mounted, it could be acres of solar,” he said.

“There will be more news to come,” Tencer said after Forum’s investment. “Most of the solar industry is focused in urban and suburban areas. We see this as a huge opportunity to serve the rural communities of the country, and it’s a very large market.”

To learn more about United Wind’s plans, click here to read Low Carbon Energy Investor’s previous interview with Tencer.