China's Goldwind qualified 1GW of wind parts for full PTC

Goldwind, the leading Chinese wind turbine supplier with big ambitions for the US market, qualified enough equipment in 2016 to build 1GW of future wind capacity eligible for the full production tax credit (PTC), a senior executive reveals.

Goldwind, by some estimates the world’s largest wind turbine maker in 2015, has long had its eye on the US, and at one point was considering building a factory in this country, the world's second largest wind market after China.

While the factory never materialised, Goldwind's attempted US push appeared to gain traction last year after the company acquired a well-advanced 160MW wind project in Texas from RES Americas and then announced an exclusive supply deal with a local developer in Wyoming for a project that could eventually reach nearly 2GW in size.

“We’re a supplier of turbines but we’re also very much interested in investing in late-stage, construction-ready projects,” David Halligan, chief executive of Goldwind Americas, said last week at the Wind Power Finance & Investment summit in California.

Halligan says the election of Donald Trump and the attendant policy uncertainties have not changed Goldwind’s general outlook or approach to the US market. “Prior to the election we set about a programme of safe-harbouring equipment [for the PTC]. Post-election we did not change that programme.”

“We’ve set aside approximately 1GW of equipment to be installed over the next four years,” Halligan says. “We’re very much bullish on the US market.”

Halligan did note, however, that the US election has forced Goldwind to “recalibrate” some of its wind-financing arrangements. And the prospect of a border-adjustment tax as part of a Republican-led overhaul of the US tax code is potentially worrisome to the Beijing-based company.

“We are – and have been – active in financing a couple of projects,” Halligan says. “Pre-election we had a structure in place, and with the election we had to recalibrate.”

“I’d say the banks we’ve been working with have been very co-operative in helping us through that, but obviously it creates a lot of uncertainty, and we have a very complex structure which tries to anticipate [future] changes in legislation.”

Goldwind is far from alone among developers in having had to readjust wind deals after the election.

Some wind tax-equity investors are already known to be pricing based on a lower future corporate tax rate, according to Keith Martin, a partner at law firm Chadbourne & Parke. And in some M&A deals, buyers are asking for "schmuck insurance", allowing for a one-time price reset after any tax overhaul is enacted, Martin says.

“Generally speaking, I’m in favour of lower corporate tax rates,” Halligan says. “And having been in the wind industry for close to 15 years, I can say that having subsidies that are pinned to tax policies is always dangerous – and here we are.”

“But certainly any form of border tax, I think the complexity of the application of that is going to be very difficult,” he says. “It’s something I think we’d be concerned with.”

Goldwind installed a single 1.5MW turbine in the US in 2016, according to new figures from the American Wind Energy Association. The US turbine market was led by Vestas, followed by GE and Siemens.

Last spring Shenzhen-listed Goldwind secured up to $1bn worth of loans from the China Development Bank to boost its international expansion plans.

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