The acquisition will give Maryland Heights, Missouri-based SunEdison a foothold in the U.S. wind market, the company said in a statement today. SunEdison now expects to install as much as 2.3 gigawatts of capacity next year, up from a range of 1.6 gigawatts to 1.8 gigawatts.
The addition of First Wind, based in Boston, is “transformative,” accellerating the companies’ “engine” for renewable project development, Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive officer of SunEdison, said in an interview.
“The reason why we’re doing it is really it doubles our served available market,” Chatila said. “Now we have combined with the best team in wind.”
SunEdison, which won’t change its name to reflect the new strategy, hopes to capitalize on the growth opportunities in the global wind energy market. Wind power in the U.S., where First Wind’s project development has been located, is expected to grow 15 percent next year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts.
SunEdison’s shares rose as much as 6 percent in after-market trading.
The purchase, which is expected to close in the first quarter, will consist of a $1.9 billion upfront payment and $510 million dependent on First Wind completing backlog projects.
TerraForm will add 521 megawatts of First Wind projects to its portfolio under the deal, with 1.6 gigawatts of projects expected to be developed by SunEdison and dropped down into TerraForm in 2016 and 2017, the companies said in the statement.
The transaction “checks all the boxes,” TerraForm Chief Executive Officer Carlos Domenech said in an interview. “What First Wind does for TerraForm is very much what SunEdison does on the solar side performing as a sponsor.”
TerraForm will add 4.6 gigawatts of installs between wind and solar by the end of 2017 after the deal, including the 3.1 gigawatts already planned with SunEdison.
“We are in the business of packaging electrons into long-term contracts,” Domenech said. “Wind is a great asset class and we see tremendous growth potential. For us this is a logical expansion into renewables.”
The company expects to look into acquiring other types of renewable energy projects, Domenech said, and is considering hydroelectric power, hybrid power systems and residential, commercial and industrial solar power assets.
TerraForm is a yieldco that went public in July. Yieldcos are an increasingly popular way to hold renewable energy assets. They let developers raise capital at lower costs by selling completed projects to their yieldcos and using the proceeds to fund new projects.
The purchase of First Wind is expected to be immediately accretive to TerraForm Power, delivering $72.5 million in unlevered cash available for distribution next year, according to the statement.
TerraForm raised its 2015 distribution guidance to $214 million and its dividend guidance to $1.30 a share, up 44 percent from its current 90-cent rate.
Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch acted as lead financial advisor to TerraForm in connection with the First Wind acquisition and lead structuring agent on the drop down warehouse credit facility. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. acted as exclusive financial advisor to First Wind.
Solar company SunEdison Inc. and unit TerraForm Power Inc. said they would buy First Wind for $2.4 billion to enter the U.S. wind power market.
SunEdison’s shares rose 6.6 percent to $17.70, while TerraForm shares rose 1.2 percent to $26.15 in after-market trading.
The deal comprises $1.9 billion in upfront payment and $510 million in earn-outs, the companies said.
Boston-based First Wind is operating or building renewable energy projects in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii, with a combined capacity of nearly 1,300 megawatts — enough to power more than 425,000 homes each year.
First Wind has been a major player in developing wind farms in Maine, with sites active and planned across northern, western and eastern Maine. It is a frequent target for environmentalists and regulators, and counts among its top executives a former high-ranking Baldacci administration official, Kurt Adams, who now sits on the University of Maine board of trustees.
The company is involved in at least six wind power projects in Maine.
SunEdison raised its 2015 installation forecast to 2.1-2.3 gigawatts from 1.6-1.8 gigawatts . TerraForm increased its 2015 dividend forecast to $1.30 per share from 90 cents.
TerraForm was created by SunEdison to own and operate its solar power plants. TerraForm went public in July.
The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2015, the companies said.
SunEdison’s share in the total consideration consists of an upfront payment of $1 billion and the earn-out portion.
TerraForm Power will acquire First Wind’s operating portfolio for an enterprise value of $862 million.
Today’s post, the second of three installments, reviews the major research findings linking low-frequency noise and infrasound from industrial wind turbines with effects on health and quality of life.
By Jerry Punch, PhD, and Richard James, INCE, BME
Evidence that industrial wind turbines (IWTs) negatively impact human health is vast and growing. Although that evidence acknowledges that the exact exposures needed to impact health and the percentage of the affected population are still unknown, there is indisputable evidence that adverse health effects (AHEs) occur for a non-trivial percentage of exposed populations. Here, we give an overview of that evidence.
Wind turbine noise is not known to cause hearing loss. Interestingly, though, individuals who have hearing disorders may be more susceptible than persons with normal hearing to AHEs from wind turbine noise, and people who are deaf can suffer the same ill effects as those who have normal hearing when exposed to wind turbine noise. The latter finding supports the view that infrasound, not just the audible whooshing, low-frequency noise emitted by wind turbines, is the cause of many of the health complaints.
The anecdotal evidence, documented on internet blogs, innewspaper articles, in expert testimony in legal proceedings, and recently in the documentary movies Windfall and Wind Rush, is compelling and illustrative of the similarity in symptoms. These adverse symptoms appear when people are exposed to operating wind turbines, and disappear when the turbines stop operating. These observations resemble single-subject research experiments, in which individuals serve as their own controls while being subjected to alternating conditions or treatments. Dr. Carl Phillips, a noted epidemiologist, describes the use of adverse event reporting as a first step in establishing the existence, prevalence, and spread of a variety of health conditions, as well as adverse reactions to such agents as medications and environmental pollutants.
Reports that many families abandon their homes after IWTs begin operation make the anecdotal evidence particularly compelling.
Studies conducted in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, where residents have many decades of experience with IWTs, collectively indicate thatwind turbine noise differs from and is more annoying than other sources of noise, including community, transportation, and industrial sources.
These differences are attributed to the substantial infrasound and low-frequency noise (ILFN) produced by the turbines. Such sounds are not easily masked by other environmental sounds, including wind noise.
Annoyance from turbine noise at 35 dBA corresponds to the annoyance reported for other common community-noise sources at 45 dBA. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that observable effects of nighttime, outdoor noise levels of 40 dBA or higher will lead to diminished health. This also occurs when levels inside homes (especially bedrooms) rise above 30 dBA or contain non-steady and/or low-frequency noise.
Yet, the wind industry commonly promotes 50 dBA as an appropriate limit for homes, even though the World Health Organization has identified such high levels as a cause of serious health effects.
Health Effects of Wind Turbine Noise
Sleep disturbance is by far the most common complaint of families living near wind turbines. Prolonged lack of sleep affects our capacity to learn and negatively affects our memory, temperament, heart health, stress levels, and hormones that regulate growth, puberty and fertility. It can also lead to high blood pressure, changes in heart rate, and an increase in heart disease, as well as weight gain and lowered immunity to disease. These symptoms have regularly been reported by individuals who live near IWTs.
In a controlled clinical study, residents who lived within 1.4 kilometers, or 0.87 mile, of IWTs exhibited greater sleep disturbance and poorer mental health than those living at distances greater than 3.3 kilometers, or 2 miles, away, and scores on sleep and mental-health measures correlated well with noise exposure levels. Another study found lower quality of life (QoL) in residents living within 2 kilometers of a turbine installation than at longer distances. Abandonment of homes near wind turbines has been associated primarily with disruptions to sleep and QoL.
Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD, a practicing pediatrician, coined the term Wind Turbine Syndrome(WTS) in 2009 to describe the symptoms she observed in a cohort study of 38 members of 10 families. Those symptoms include: sleep disturbance; headache; Visceral Vibratory Vestibular Disturbance (VVVD); dizziness, vertigo, unsteadiness; tinnitus; ear pressure or pain; external auditory canal sensation; memory and concentration deficits; irritability and anger; and fatigue and loss of motivation. Although her case-series report, published as a book, has often been maligned by the wind industry as being non-scientific, an increasing body of scientific evidence supports her observations and their links to exposure to wind turbines. Dr. Robert McMurtry, a well-respected Ontario physician, recently proposed specific diagnostic criteria for a case definition of AHEs due to IWTs.
Industry Reacts to Claims
In 2009, a joint report of the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations (AWEA/CanWEA) established the basis for arguments routinely used by wind energy advocates to persuade the public and public officials that IWTs present no health risks. The panel members who produced the report were handpicked by AWEA’s acoustical consultant, and all had prior positions on noise from wind turbines favorable to the industry.
The report concluded that exposure to wind turbine noise has no direct adverse physiological or health consequences, a conclusion shown to be erroneous by multiple lines of evidence, at least several of which were established prior to the report. The report’s major weaknesses were its comparisons of wind turbine noise levels to those produced by other environmental noises and its embrace of the A-weighted measurement scale as valid, even though that scale minimizes low-frequency sound and completely excludes infrasound.
Several scholarly researchers have rejected the AWEA/CanWEA report as misleading and unscientific. One of the report’s co-authors, Dr. Geoff Leventhall, whose own research demonstrates that ILFN leads to various health symptoms, attributes those symptoms to extreme psychological stress from low-frequency noise, but does not acknowledge that IWTs also cause such symptoms. He argues that the ILFN emitted by wind turbines falls below the threshold of hearing, claiming that what we can’t hear can’t hurt us—a topic we will address in our final installment.
Jerry Punch is an audiologist and professor emeritus at Michigan State University in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. Since his retirement in 2011, he has become actively involved as a private audiological consultant in areas related to his long-standing interest in community noise. Richard James is an acoustical consultant with over 40 years of experience in industrial noise measurement and control. He is an adjunct instructor in Michigan State University’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders and an adjunct professor in Central Michigan University’s Department of Communication Disorders.