San Francisco-based NaturEner USA announced Monday it has closed on a $156 million financing deal that will help pay for its $500 million Glacier Wind Farm in Toole and Glacier counties near Ethridge.
The “preferred equity investment” is being made by Morgan Stanley, NaturEner said.
The $156 million will cover a large part of the cost of construction of the first phase, which involved putting up 71 Acciona wind turbines supplying 106.5 megawatts of wind energy at full production.
The energy, which went on-line in December, is being sold to a California utility.
“This is a significant milestone for our company, particularly when set against the backdrop of the unfolding financial crisis,” said Alfredo Cahuas, NaturEner’s chief financial officer.
For NaturEner, whose global headquarters are in Spain, to take advantage of U.S. energy production tax credits, it had to bring in a U.S. investor like Morgan Stanley, Cahuas said.
The equity investment is a way to get cash value for the tax credits, he added. The $156 million will help NaturEner pay down a short-term construction loan for the first phase, which cost $245 million, he said.
New York-based Capstar Partners acted as exclusive financial adviser to NaturEner.
NaturEner is now talking to banks about obtaining short-term financing to build the second phase of the Glacier Wind Farm, which calls for an additional 103.5 megawatts using the same 1.5-megawatt Acciona turbine.
Second-phase turbines will begin going up in May, Cahuas said. Company officials have said that the entire project cost is around $500 million.
NaturEner is developing additional wind energy facilities that will produce 1,800 megawatts in Montana and the western U.S., as well as in Alberta, Canada, via its affiliate NaturEner Energy Canada, Inc.
In Cahuas’ view, the type of recent investment that’s occurred in energy infrastructure in northcentral Montana as a result of the production tax credit should guide the pending policy debate in Washington on the large infrastructure stimulus package.
“They do, in fact, generate jobs,” he said.