United Wind Drawing Investors With Wind Leasing Model

United Wind Inc. is attracting attention from investors seeking the wind-power equivalent of the solar lease, said Chief Executive Officer Russell Tencer.

“Interest has certainly ramped up this year,” Tencer said today in an interview. The Brooklyn, New York-based company develops small wind-power systems and is “well positioned to benefit from a trend started by SolarCity and Sunrun.”

United Wind said yesterday it’s receiving $10 million from Pacific Rim Capital Inc. to install turbines in central and western New York. The turbines will be owned by Pacific Rim and maintained by United Wind.

United Wind last year received $25 million from GSG Energy Finance to install turbines in rural areas in New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and Maryland.

The company’s projects typically have 10 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts of capacity. Customers including farmers, rural homeowners and schools pay little to nothing up front and sign long-term contracts to buy electricity produced by United Wind systems.

That’s similar to solar leases offered by companies such as SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc. The model has made residential rooftops the fastest-growing U.S. solar market. Sunrun is expecting installations to double this year and next.

United Wind’s systems are best suited for customers with at least an acre of land, according to its website.

That may limit the company’s appeal, said Amy Grace, a New York-based analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“It could be a new trend for distributed wind,” she said. “But it will be mostly limited to rural applications in areas with good wind resource and high electricity prices.”

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