Noble Power Preps For IPO in Breezy Wind Market

Although a public offering from a solar installer met a chilly response on the Street this week, one of cleantech’s most mature industries, wind energy, might have an IPO of its own soon. Riding high on record wind installations, Noble Environmental Power, a developer and operator of wind farms in the Northeast, has filed for a $375 million IPO on the Nasdaq under the ticker “NEPI.” (Hat tip PEHub)

The company says it currently operates 282 megawatts of wind power capacity across three wind parks in New York and plans to have 465 megawatts of capacity come online by the end of the year. With another 1,205 megawatts in development, the company says it will have nearly 2 gigawatts of capacity by 2010. All of this is part of America’s booming wind energy market, which grew 45 percent last year and is on track to set a new record this year with 1,400 megawatts of capacity installed in the first quarter, according to new figures from the American Wind Energy Association.

Headquartered in Essex, Conn., Noble will have its IPO underwritten by its majority owner JP Morgan, as well as Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse. Founded in 2004, Noble hasn’t set an IPO date but intends to debut sometime later this year.

It’s not just American startups cashing in on the U.S. wind boom. With the weak U.S. dollar as an incentive, foreign energy developers are moving into the states. About half of the installed turbines in the U.S. are owned by foreign energy firms and Spanish utility Iberdrola is the largest wind operator in the U.S. with nearly 7 gigawatts of capacity. Today, Iberdrola’s subsidiary Iberdrola Renovables (formerly PPM Energy) ordered 200 1.5 megawatt turbines from GE for $659 million.

But the dealings work both ways. This week, American FPL Group, the second largest operator of wind energy in the United States, ordered 218 2.3 megawatt turbines from German Siemens. The financial details of the deal weren’t disclosed but Seimens says it’s received $2.4 billion in turbine orders in the United States this fiscal year.

Which makes us wonder if Noble’s IPO is the best exit strategy. Iberdrola bought ScottishPower, with its 1.45 gigawatts of American capacity, last year and seems intent on continuing to expand by all available means. With large, diversified companies controlling so much of the wind market perhaps an acquisition would best provide Noble with the additional capital and connections to grow its business. While the wind market has plenty of space for a number of companies, we’ll see if the Street is willing to bet on a relatively small player.