GE Funds Wind Turbine Startup TPI Composites


TPI Composites Inc., which makes light-weight wind turbine blades that it claims are more durable and more efficient than conventional blades, on Thursday announced it had raised $20 million in its second round of funding.

Investors in the convertible preferred equity financing round, announced at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit in Indian Wells, Calif., include GE Equity and GE Energy Financial Services, Landmark Growth Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners and Angeleno Group. TPI said the round reflects an increase in its valuation from its first funding. The company raised $22 million in convertible preferred equity financing in October of 2007.

The investment is a score for the company, especially now, when capital is hard to come by. It’s notable that GE (s GE), one of the largest U.S. wind energy-equipment suppliers, is an investor. TPI in 2007 announced an agreement to supply GE with wind turbine blades.

The company plans to use the money to continue to expand its capacity. Last year, TPI tripled its capacity at its Mexican facility, which is a joint venture with Mitsubishi Power Systems, and opened factories in Newton, Iowa, and Taicang, China, under supply agreements with GE Energy.

Andy Katell, senior vice president of communications at GE Energy Financial Services, said that the investment is a good fit and that it’s a good time for TPI to expand.  “They are absolutely in the growth mode because, long term, wind energy is expanding globally and that increases the demand for all the equipment involved, including the blades for turbines,” he said.

Annual global wind power installation has increased at an average rate of 22 percent over the last five years, with blades garnering $2.1 billion in sales in 2007, according to a GE estimate.

The funding also signals that GE has capital to invest. While the company isn’t immune from capital constraints, Katell said, “We are looking much more carefully than ever at good, high-quality projects and companies to invest in and ones that provide a high return in the short term. TPI fits all those characteristics.”


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