Once the company identifies an opportunity for a potential generation project, Invenergy’s engineers and developers go to work. The teams scout the site first, measuring the feasibility of establishing a wind generation facility there. “A big thing with the projects is transmission, getting your power to market,” Shield says, adding that a transmission team examines the ease with which a potential project would be able to supply its power to the market.
Invenergy has the advantage of experience and a fast reaction time, but the company also has the added edge of foresight. Because Polsky began focusing on wind energy development in 2001 – before many of the major players began to take it seriously – Invenergy has been able to stake its claim ahead of the pack, according to Shield.
“As we’ve built our business up over time, we have the advantage of having started years earlier in the wind business, and got some favorable sites,” he says. The company was also able to secure a significant supply of wind turbines from General Electric before the start of the wind energy boom.
“We took the risk to secure a supply of equipment, and that has worked out well for us,” Shield says. With a ready-made supply of turbines, Invenergy was able to hit the ground running in developing some of its properties without having to wait around for equipment to arrive.
Invenergy has been able to get a good head start on the wind power industry, but in some areas, its progress has been stymied by outside factors. Shield says the lack of a cohesive national energy policy has resulted in a patchwork energy policy that doesn’t allow for a uniform energy market. He says this does very little to promote new energy projects and investment in them. “Policy is almost state-to-state, while energy markets are regional and national,” he says.
The company does see reason to be optimistic for the future, however, given President Obama’s goal to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and increasing the amount of power generated by renewable sources in the United States. The economic stimulus package has provisions for renewable energy projects, including expanded tax benefits. Shield says Invenergy’s Grand Ridge Energy Center wind project will be one of the first projects to benefit from the stimulus plan.
Thanks to tax credit extensions and stimulus funding, Invenergy will be adding 74 new 1.5 MW General Electric wind turbines to expand Grand Ridge to produce an additional 110 MW of electricity. The added capacity will enable Grand Ridge to supply clean power to more than 30,000 households, according to the company. “In a long-term strategic viewpoint for the United States, renewable energy makes sense, not even accounting for the environmental benefits,” Shield says. “When you look at wind – and these projects will be economical for years to come – you’ll have free fuel.”