Principle Power Will Sell Stake to Fund Floating Wind Platforms

Principle Power Inc., a renewable-energy developer backed by Spanish oil producer Repsol SA, plans to sell a stake to fund its floating wind-turbine foundations.

Principle Power will use the money to develop the WindFloat platform and bring it to market, Alla Weinstein, chief executive officer of the Seattle-based company, said by telephone. She declined to say how much the developer plans to raise.

Wind companies are seeking ways to lower costs for offshore projects as cheaper land-based ventures face hurdles to planning consent. Floating units can be assembled onshore and towed out, making deployment easier and installation less expensive. They also can be used farther from shore, where wind speeds increase.

“Floating wind platforms are potentially exciting because they would be cheaper to build and maintain than those anchored on the seabed and not necessarily limited to shallow water,” Kristian Rix, a Repsol spokesman, said by e-mail. The oil company is able to transfer its knowledge of operating offshore to wind developers at sea, he said.

In April 2012, Principle Power installed a prototype of its floating foundation equipped with a turbine supplied by Vestas Wind Systems A/S, as part of a venture with Repsol and Energias de Portugal SA. The system has so far generated about 5,000 megawatt-hours of electricity off Portugal, where the partners plan to install more turbines totaling more than 25 megawatts.

U.S., U.K.

Principle is also talking to investors to raise debt and equity for pilot projects in the U.S. and U.K., Weinstein said.

Floating wind ventures aren’t yet sufficiently advanced to win project finance, Richard Simon-Lewis, a senior director at Lloyds Banking Group Plc, said by e-mail. With only a handful of prototypes in the water and no utility-scale projects, there’s “little financing precedent to fall back on,” he said.

Once prototypes have been proven, utilities will probably back one of the designs for full deployment, which may spur equity and debt investment, according to Simon-Lewis. “Results from the demonstration projects currently in operation are very encouraging,” he said.

Offshore wind currently costs about three times coal-fired power, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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