TPI Composites, which builds lightweight wind turbine blades, on Thursday announced it completed a $26 million round of funding. The deal was led by Element Partners and included participation from existing investors Landmark Growth Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners, Angeleno Group and GE Capital, the investment arm of General Electric.
GE’s participation is of particular interest because it signals GE’s long-term bullishness on the wind industry in general and TPI’s technology in particular. In January, GE contributed to TPI’s $20 million second round of funding, although the companies have not disclosed how much GE has contributed to either round. GE is one of the world’s leading wind energy equipment suppliers, and besides being an investor in TPI, it’s also a client — TPI opened factories last year in Newton, Iowa, and Taicang, China, under supply agreements with GE.
TPI’s strategy is to build and operate factories that produce custom wind blades for each client and target market. TPI says this leads to reduced costs through savings on transportation and labor, and results in long-term partnerships that meet “captive sourcing” needs with reduced risk. Besides executing this strategy with GE, TPI has partnered with turbine supplier Mitsubishi Power Systems to build a manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
TPI uses a patented vacuum infusion technology called SCRIMP to build blades made of composite materials. In the SCRIMP process, a vacuum pulls liquid resins into a mixture of fiber reinforcements and other materials placed in what’s called a dry lay-up (see illustration). The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based blade developer says this approach results in lighter, stronger and more reliable composite structures.
TPI total financing amounts to at least $68 million, including a $22 million first round of funding announced in October 2007. Given the tight credit and equity markets, TPI’s recent success at fundraising suggests it’s found a winning business plan for an innovative technology.