First Wind, Emera deal closes

First Wind Holdings LLC and Emera Inc. have closed their deal to jointly own and operate wind energy projects in the Northeast through a new company, Northeast Wind Partners.

First Wind is the largest developer of wind farms in Maine, and Emera is the parent company of Bangor Hydro.

Under the deal, First Wind retains 51 percent and Emera now owns 49 percent of the new company. First Wind will continue to operate the wind energy projects. Emera affiliate Emera Energy Services will provide energy management services. First Wind will exclusively manage the development business and develop new wind projects in the Northeast.

Emera is essentially providing a cash injection to First Wind’s business efforts in the region. First Wind’s plan to go public – another way to raise cash– died on the vine in 2010.

According to a release from the two companies, Emera has invested a total of $211 million to acquire its 49 percent of Northeast Wind Partners. In addition, Emera is making a $150 million loan to an intermediate subsidiary company of Northeast Wind Partners, which will be repaid in five years.

“Emera’s ongoing business objective is to expand our presence in the Northeastern U.S. and we are pleased to be partnering with First Wind, who is known throughout the region as a premier developer of quality wind energy projects,” said Chris Huskilson, President and CEO, Emera Inc.” Our First Wind partnership helps Emera establish a meaningful position in the Northeast renewable energy market and is consistent with our corporate strategy. This partnership also allows us to demonstrate our commitment to Maine and the region both through existing and anticipated new Maine-based projects.”

The wind farms in Maine include Mars Hill Wind, Stetson Wind I and II in Danforth, and the Rollins Wind Project, as well as operations in Vermont and New York.

“This is an exciting partnership for First Wind that will allow us to invest in new, well-sited and well-run wind projects that deliver clean energy to homes and businesses across the Northeast,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind, in the release. “We see an enormous opportunity to continue to deliver cost-effective clean, renewable energy so that Northeastern states can meet their important renewable portfolio standards.”’

In April, all three members of Maine’s Public Utilities Commission voted to approve the Emera/First Wind deal, though PUC staff had recommended the deal be rejected.

The deal had originally included Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. as an investor in Northeast Wind. New York-based Algonquin pulled out of the part of the deal to invest in First Wind’s holdings. It remains a partner with Emera in plans to expand into energy markets in the Northeast.