A Northern European banking giant and a Canadian investment management firm on Tuesday announced $191 million in loans to First Wind of Massachusetts.
The loans are designed to keep the company and its Stetson Mountain, Maine, industrial wind project operational for at least another year.
Alberta Investment Management Corp. has agreed to an 8½-year, $115 million term loan, while HSH Nordbank of Germany will loan First Wind $76 million for one year for First Wind’s Stetson I project. Transaction proceeds will further First Wind’s development activity, company officials said.
“These investments in First Wind in the midst of very difficult financing markets show confidence in First Wind’s ability to continue to develop, build and operate wind farms in our target markets,” First Wind Chief Executive Officer Paul Gaynor said in a statement released Tuesday.
“It also shows that AIMCo and HSH Nordbank are committed to making major investments in clean, renewable energy.”
The $60 million, 38-turbine Stetson Mountain I wind energy facility began commercial operations in January. Tuesday’s loan announcement brings to at least $567 million the loans that First Wind has secured this year.
“We are impressed by the First Wind team and their ability to deliver value on their portfolio of operating and growth wind assets,” said Ben Hawkins, a principal of infrastructure investments for AIMCo. “We believe this financing will allow First Wind to continue to exercise on its growth plans and create value in this exciting sector.”
First Wind officials declined on Tuesday to describe the debt load the company is carrying or the profits it has made from its operational projects.
First Wind has five wind projects producing 274 megawatts in three states — two in Maine, two in New York and one in Hawaii. It also has a 203-megawatt project under construction in Utah for which it received a $376 million construction financing loan. Royal Bank of Scotland was lead arranger of that loan.
The state’s largest wind-to-energy producer, First Wind has offices in several locations, including Lincoln and Oakfield, and several projects at various stages of development in Maine. Two have been approved by state regulators: a 40-turbine wind farm called Rollins Mountain in Lincoln, Lee, Winn, Burlington and Mattawamkeag, and a 17-turbine extension of the Stetson Mountain project called Stetson II outside Danforth.
Gaynor has said he hopes to begin construction on both of those projects later this year, but to date neither has financial backing. First Wind has already bought the turbines for both projects. A citizen group, Friends of Lincoln Lakes, has an appeal pending in civil court that could halt construction of the Rollins Mountain project.
Applications for a third First Wind project in Maine, a 34-turbine, 51-megawatt wind-to-energy facility in the southern Aroostook County town of Oakfield, was filed with the state in April. That application is pending.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, AIMCo describes itself as one of the largest institutional investment management firms in Canada, with $68 billion Canadian in assets under management as of March 31. AIMCo manages capital for public sector pension plan and government endowment fund clients across a wide variety of asset classes.
HSH Nordbank has since 2003 been one of the most active banks in financing construction of European wind projects, according to its Web site, hsh-nordbank.com. In 2008, HSH Nordbank provided more than $2.4 billion in project financing for renewable energy projects, making it the world’s leading financier in the renew-able energy sector.