As wind farm developments have soared in the U.S., turbine makers are finding they can barely keep up. Northern Power Systems said its parent company, Wind Power Holdings, has completed a $37 million round of financing to boost its turbine manufacturing business, led by RockPort Capital Partners and Allen & Company.
Barre, Vt.-based Northern Power says it plans to use the funding to not only scale up manufacturing of its small-scale 100 kilowatt Northwind 100 turbines but also accelerate development of a much larger 2.2 megawatt turbine which it plans to sell to industrial wind farm developers. Currently, the company says its Northwind turbine is available within a six-month lead time, a pretty quick turnaround considering that giants like GE are reporting a $12
mbillion backlog on wind turbine orders.
It’s this large-scale turbine shortage that Northern Power hopes to tap into with its 2.2 MW permanent magnet direct drive wind turbine. The permanent magnet direct drive system is where much of the company’s IP lies. Instead of employing a complicated, heavy and expensive gearbox, Northern Power’s proprietary permanent magnet generator reduces the number of moving parts. The result, the company claims, is a generator that is lighter, more efficient and requires less assembly labor and less maintenance.
Northern Power isn’t alone in trying to scale-up direct drive turbines. Earlier this year Siemens said it would begin testing two 3.6 megawatt direct drive turbines in Denmark. Currently, the gearbox is one of the most problematic components of turbines, and direct drive technology aims to offer turbines that require less maintenance and therefore boast lower operating costs and more up-time per turbine. This will be especially critical as offshore development moves forward.
In August, Wind Power Holdings reportedly acquired Northern Power’s assets. This was after Northern Power’s original parent, Distributed Energy Systems, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. Distributed Energy sold turbines through Northern Power and hydrogen production systems through it’s other subsidiary, Proton Energy Systems. (Both were former Nth Power portfolio companies.) Since filing for bankruptcy and reorganizing the companies, the two now independent subsidiaries have been ramping up, Northern having raised $56 million in total funding and Proton Energy raising $10.2 million in August from F9 Investments.