Community Wind: Once Again Pushing the Envelope of Project Finance

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The "community wind" sector in the United States – defined in this report as consisting of relatively small utility-scale wind power projects that sell power on the wholesale market and that are developed and owned primarily by local investors – has historically served as a "test bed" or "proving grounds" not only for up-and-coming wind turbine manufacturers trying to break into the broader U.S. wind market, but also for wind project financing structures. More recently, a handful of community wind projects built over the past year have been financed via new and creative structures that push the envelope of wind project finance in the U.S. – in many cases, moving beyond the now-standard partnership flip structures involving strategic tax equity investors. Details of the financing structures used for each project are described in Section 4 of the full report. In most cases, these are first-of-their-kind structures that could serve as useful examples for other projects – both community and commercial wind alike. Other policy-related enablers of some of the financial innovation profiled in this report include New Markets Tax Credits – which are not new but have only recently been tapped to help finance solar projects and, for the first time, in 2010 have been part of a community wind project financing – and Section 6108 of the 2008 Farm Bill, which expands the USDA's authority to loan to renewable generation projects, even if those projects are not serving traditional rural markets.

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