Category: Wind

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US Offshore Wind Market Handbook Helps Investors Navigate Technical and Regulatory Issues
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K&L Gates Advises innogy on Acquisition of More Than 2,000 MW Onshore Wind Projects
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Join K&L Gates at NEBC’s Energy Workshop on Thursday, June 7
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Tax Credits for Storage After Solar or Wind?
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Tax Reform Conference Bill Released: PTC and ITC Emerge Battered
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The Senate has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Is this the next drop in the renewable energy roller coaster?
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Teresa Hill To Speak at AWEA WINDPOWER 2017
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The Business of of Wind in the Northwest – Presented by The Seminar Group
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Avangrid Wins Latest BOEM Auction for Offshore North Carolina Lease and Moves Towards Full Commercial Lease
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Developers Submit Unsolicited Requests for Wind Leases Offshore Massachusetts and New York

US Offshore Wind Market Handbook Helps Investors Navigate Technical and Regulatory Issues

K&L Gates LLP, and Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group recently released an Offshore Wind Market Handbook to help guide investors through technical- and regulatory issues in the emerging US offshore wind market.

“Many large companies and institutional investors who have been successful with offshore wind projects in Europe are now poised to invest in the US,” said Andrew Thompson, Director, Offshore Wind at Atkins. “However, technical and regulatory issues unique to this market can be a barrier to developers for offshore wind energy projects. Our handbook provides practical information that addresses key matters.”

Regulatory issues include a discussion of the interplay between US federal jurisdiction and the various coastal states that have enacted laws and regulations encouraging offshore wind projects. Technical issues include turbine and foundation options and solutions, performance assurance strategies and a discussion of innovations in design and equipment that are particularly suited to US coastal waters.

“Essentially, technical and regulatory legal issues are intertwined such that project success requires a closely coordinated cross-discipline team,” said David Hattery, co-leader of K&L Gates’ power practice. “Together, K&L Gates and Atkins demonstrate a pool of knowledge and a depth of experience to draw on that gives us uniquely valuable insight into the legal and technical challenges facing the US offshore wind industry.”

The K&L Gates renewable energy practice combines European project experience with US regulatory and project development expertise. Atkins is a leading provider of full range technical and operational expertise in the energy industry, including engineering design and owner’s engineer services in the global offshore wind market. Together, K&L Gates and Atkins demonstrate market leadership on key issues and can help investors build a leading position in the US offshore wind market.

To read the full press release, click here.

K&L Gates Advises innogy on Acquisition of More Than 2,000 MW Onshore Wind Projects

3 August 2018

Join K&L Gates at NEBC’s Energy Workshop on Thursday, June 7

Please join us on Thursday, June 7, 2018 as we host the Northwest Environmental Business Council’s (NEBC) Energy Workshop “Powering Our Future: Insight into the Growth of Renewables.”

As host of the event in our Seattle office, our partners Ankur Tohan and Alyssa Moir and associate Endre Szalay will speak on a panel titled “Solar & Wind Project Development: Navigating Risk and Seizing Opportunity.”

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Join us for an engaging afternoon of discussions on policy, technology, and legal hot topics in the renewable energy industry. Panelists representing perspectives from power producers, power purchasers, energy investors, utility, and the legal industry will discuss the role of competitive markets in the renewable energy sector, the impact and increasing presence of renewables and storage on the grid, and renewable project development issues and opportunities with a focus on the Northwest.

The workshop is presented free of charge to NEBC members and all interested parties.

DETAILS

Thursday, June 7
1:45 – 2:00 p.m.: Registration & Opening Remarks

2:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Technical Workshop

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.: Happy Hour

Location: K&L Gates LLP, 925 Fourth Avenue, Suite 2900, Seattle, WA

REGISTRATION

For more details and to register, click here.

Tax Credits for Storage After Solar or Wind?

By Elizabeth Crouse, Elias Hinckley and William Holmes

On Friday, March 2, the Internal Revenue Service released Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”) 201809003. The PLR is not binding precedent, but it indicates that the IRS will permit a taxpayer to claim a Code Section 25D credit in respect of a residential battery installed after the solar panels to which it will be attached was installed. In the PLR, the IRS expressly states that it will treat the battery as property that “uses solar energy to generate electricity,” provided only solar energy is used to charge it.

The PLR concerns individuals claiming a credit for a residential system, but don’t stop reading. This outcome matters for C&I and utility scale projects also.

Read More

Tax Reform Conference Bill Released: PTC and ITC Emerge Battered

By Elizabeth C. Crouse

Earlier this evening, the conference committee considering the tax reform bills previously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate released legislative text for the much rumored conference bill. Although neither the Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) nor the Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) are directly impacted, the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (often referred to as the “BEAT” or “International AMT”) provides only partial relief for U.S. corporations subject to that tax that have PTCs or ITCs available to offset their U.S. federal income tax.

Under the conference bill, a U.S. corporation that is subject to the International AMT may use up to the lesser of 80% of the PTCs and ITCs available to them or the “base erosion minimum tax amount” only through 2025. The PTC and ITC cannot be used to eliminate any International AMT otherwise due.

As in previous iterations of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the conference bill does not distinguish between PTCs and ITCs earned in respect of qualifying projects that have already been placed in service or begun construction. In addition, although the International AMT rate has been adjusted (5% for tax years beginning in 2018, 10% for tax years beginning between 2019 and 2025, and 12.5% thereafter), the rate applicable to U.S. corporations that are in an affiliated group with any bank or registered securities dealer will always be 1% higher than the generally applicable rate. In addition, the PTC and ITC cannot be used to reduce the International AMT due in any tax year beginning in 2026 or thereafter.

Thus, although the impact of the International AMT is somewhat reduced in the conference bill, the International AMT could still prompt some multinational investors in renewable energy projects to divest certain operating projects and projects under development as well as discourage investment in new projects.

The Senate has passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Is this the next drop in the renewable energy roller coaster?

By Elizabeth C. Crouse

Early in the morning of Saturday, December 2, the U.S. Senate voted along party lines to approve its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”). The U.S. House of Representatives approved its rather different version of the bill on Thursday, November 16, 2017. Although the two bills now must proceed through the conference process to reconcile their differences, many predict that any bill ultimately sent to the President will largely resemble the Senate version. It is not clear how long the conference process may take, but Congressional Republicans have indicated that they intend to send a final bill to the President before Christmas, perhaps as early as December 15. Ultimately, while it appears that the investment tax credit (“ITC”) and production tax credit (“PTC”) provisions likely will not be changed in the reconciliation bill, the net effect of other provisions, particularly a new “International AMT,” may significantly chill the tax equity market that supports much of the renewable energy industry.

The PTC and ITC Provisions Are Not Expected to Change

The tax reform measure approved by the full Senate includes several changes compared to the version approved by the Senate Finance Committee and also differs in some significant ways compared to the House bill. It is important to note that while the House bill includes dramatic cuts to the PTC and more limited revisions to the ITC, the Senate bill would not change either credit program. During the Senate Finance Committee mark-up, Republicans indicated their intent to address the availability of the ITC and PTC for certain “orphan” technologies before the end of the year. Addressing energy provisions in a different tax package would relieve some of the pressure on revenues in the tax reform bill as lawmakers must stay within the budget reconciliation instruction constraints, including that the deficit may not be increased by more than $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period.

Provisions That May Suppress Tax Equity Investment

However, both bills include radical changes to corporate and international taxation that may suppress investment in renewable energy projects that qualify for the ITC and PTC.

  • First, the change in the corporate income tax rate to a flat 20% rate (or perhaps a 22% rate, based on recent statements from the President), temporary renewal of 100% bonus depreciation and increased expensing of capital investments are expected to reduce appetite for tax credits because of generally reduced corporate exposure to U.S. federal income taxes. In addition, the Senate bill would not repeal the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. (Under current law, a corporation that is subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax may be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC under certain circumstances. However, there is a significant effort to at least reduce the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax in the reconciliation bill.).
  • Second, in the course of changing the United States from a “worldwide” to a “territorial” tax system, the bills would add “base erosion” provisions that may inhibit investment by multinational corporations in the United States generally and specifically in PTC and ITC projects. In other words, under the bills, a person would be required to pay U.S. federal income tax on the income it earns in the United States, but not outside of the United States. The base erosion provisions are intended to limit the ability of a taxpayer to reduce its U.S. income through certain transactions and arrangements with non-U.S. affiliates. One of these rules would discourage a U.S. company from financing its operations with debt from a non-U.S. affiliate beyond a certain point.

Another base erosion provision would require a U.S. corporation to pay tax on 10% (11% if it is a bank) of (x) its “modified” taxable income, less (y) the tax it would otherwise pay without taking into consideration its U.S. federal income tax credits other than the research and development credit. A U.S. corporation is subject to this rule if it pays non-U.S. affiliates for a threshold amount of goods and services, e.g., component parts or administration, and the multinational group has gross receipts of more than $500 million on average over the prior three years (the “International AMT”). Although generally applicable, this rule would require a calculation of adjusted income that would not account for the PTC or ITC, regardless of when the PTCs or ITCs were earned. Thus, a company that is subject to the International AMT will likely be required to pay tax on income that would otherwise be sheltered by the PTC or ITC, including income that may be sheltered under the existing Alternative Minimum Tax rules. There are reports that a coalition of Republican Senators are attempting to exclude the PTC and ITC from the adjusted income calculation for the International AMT, but it is not clear that will be accomplished during the reconciliation process.

What does this mean for the renewable energy industry?

If the bill that ultimately crosses the President’s desk largely mirrors the Senate bill, it is likely that many of the very large tax equity investors will become subject to the International AMT (since many of those investors are banks, they are also likely to become subject to the higher International AMT rate). Some of those investors have indicated that they will attempt to sell their PTC and ITC holdings and will pull back from further investment. While it seems unlikely that the largest investors will completely exit the PTC and ITC market, even a partial withdrawal seems likely to cause significant turbulence in the market. While the provisions applicable to the tax equity investors that are not subject to the International AMT are more of a mixed bag, the reduction in the corporate income tax rate and increase in bonus depreciation may curb their PTC and ITC appetite.

There is a reasonable possibility that the reconciliation bill will diverge from the bills in material ways, particularly if the President’s recent statements considering a 22% corporate income tax rate are taken seriously. In any event, it seems likely that negotiations over the tax bills may convert the Suniva Section 201 proceeding into just one among several concerns for those riding the “solarcoaster” in the months ahead; at the same time, the uncertainty that the Senate and House bills create with respect to the PTC will occupy the attention of the wind industry.

Teresa Hill To Speak at AWEA WINDPOWER 2017

Teresa Hill, Partner in K&L Gates’ Portland office, will be speaking at the AWEA WINDPOWER 2017 post-conference seminar The Evolving World of Corporate Wind Investment in Anaheim, California, on Thursday, May 25th at 1:30 p.m. PST at the Anaheim Convention Center. Teresa will speak on the panel Sealing the C&I Deal: Innovations, Challenges, and Opportunities in conjunction with Ted Romaine, Director of Origination, Invenergy LLC and Vanessa Miler-Fels, Energy Strategy & Research – Renewable Energy Strategist, Microsoft.  Teresa will focus on how to structure renewable agreements that satisfy both the non-utility buyer’s renewable goals and other organizational needs, and provide the developer a financeable revenue stream to support the renewable project.  

The Business of of Wind in the Northwest – Presented by The Seminar Group

How is big business putting wind to work? Why does it make financial sense? This event, presented by The Seminar Group, will explore answers to these questions and discuss the status of wind power development in the west, wind power siting, utility perspectives of renewables, Cal ISO expansion, and equity financial structures and tax considerations.

Portland partner Bill Holmes is serving as Program Chair for this progrm Thursday, May 4 at the World Trade Center in Portland, Oregon.

In addition, Seattle partner David Benson will serve as a faculty member for the program.

Bill will present on the Status of Wind Power Development in the West and David will speak on a panel covering Equity, Financial Structures and Tax Considerations.

To learn more about this event and register, click here.

Avangrid Wins Latest BOEM Auction for Offshore North Carolina Lease and Moves Towards Full Commercial Lease

By Stanford D. Baird, Joseph D. Condo, Ankur K. Tohan, David L. Wochner, Michael L. O’Neill

Following an auction on March 16, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) named Avangrid Renewables, LLC (Avangrid) the provisional winner of the auction.  Avangrid, majority owned by global energy firm Iberdrola, S.A., outbid three other auction participants to secure rights to a 122,405-acre area off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  Avangrid and BOEM will now work to finalize the provisional lease and continue to develop the project.

BOEM has not scheduled any other lease auctions for offshore wind projects on the Outer Continental Shelf.  However, as this month’s unsolicited bids for offshore Massachusetts and New York demonstrate, businesses remain interested in developing offshore wind projects with or without an open lease application solicitation.  Therefore, in addition to submitting unsolicited lease applications, there is an opportunity to advocate at the federal level with the Trump Administration and BOEM to continue the leasing program on the Outer Continental Shelf and to continue advocating for state-level incentives for offshore wind projects.

The Auction Process and the Winning Bid
Following years of preparation, BOEM announced its plans to hold the North Carolina Outer Continental Shelf lease in January 2017.  Nine bidders pre-qualified as “eligible bidders” under BOEM’s auction rules.  Four companies participated in the March 16 auction:

  • Avangrid
  • Statoil Wind US LLC
  • Wind Future LLC
  • wpd offshore Alpha LLC (wpd offshore)

The bidding lasted 17 rounds, with Avangrid and wpd offshore both bidding more than $8 million in the 16th round.  Avangrid’s 17th round bid of $9,066,650 successfully secured the provisional win for Avangrid.

Next Steps for the North Carolina Lease and Beyond
Part 585 of the Code of Federal Regulations lays out the next steps for finalizing the lease for the offshore North Carolina block.  First, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission will review BOEM’s auction process.  Then Avangrid must execute the lease, file financial assurance, and pay the balance of the “bonus bid” (the difference between the winning bid and the applicable bid deposit) within 10 days of receiving the lease documents.

Once the lease is finalized, Avangrid will have one year to submit its Site Assessment Plan (SAP) to BOEM.  The SAP describes the initial activities the leaseholder will undertake to evaluate the lease site (federal guidance available here).  If approved, BOEM’s regulations allow Avangrid five years to develop and submit a Construction and Operations Plan for BOEM’s approval, although the plan must be filed at least six months prior to the end of this five-year period.  A Construction and Operations Plan outlines the facilities that the leaseholder plans to construct and use for its project, as well as construction activities, commercial operations, and decommissioning plans (additional federal guidance here).   Once the Construction and Operations Plan is filed, BOEM will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and reasonable alternatives, as well as solicit public comment.  If BOEM approves the Construction and Operations Plan, Avangrid would have a 25-year commercial lease term with the possibility of renewal.

More broadly, the North Carolina offshore wind lease auction was the last pending open auction.  BOEM has evaluated potential commercial leasing and received indications of commercial interest in other Outer Continental Shelf areas, such as offshore California, Hawaii, and South Carolina, but the agency has not set a timetable for announcing any further competitive lease auctions.  In the absence of an open auction, interested parties may submit unsolicited lease applications in accordance with 30 C.F.R. § 585.230.

There is also an opportunity to advocate for additional competitive Outer Continental Shelf lease auctions with the Trump Administration.  President Donald Trump’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” proposes a 12 percent cut to the Department of the Interior’s budget, suggesting that agencies like BOEM within the Department may be de-emphasized under the new Trump Administration.  In contrast, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke called the results of last week’s North Carolina auction a “big win for collaborative efforts with state, local, and private sector partners,” so the Trump Administration, as well as legislators in Congress, may be disposed to support continued offshore wind development as this year’s federal budget debate unfolds.

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Developers Submit Unsolicited Requests for Wind Leases Offshore Massachusetts and New York

By Stanford D. Baird, Joseph D. Condo, Ankur K. Tohan, David L. Wochner, and Michael L. O’Neill

On March 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) posted four unsolicited applications for wind project leases on the Outer Continental Shelf.  PNE Wind U.S.A., Inc. has filed three lease applications, two for offshore Massachusetts and one for offshore New York.   Separately, Statoil Wind US LLC filed a lease application for offshore Massachusetts.

The developers’ lease requests, particularly the overlapping requests for offshore Massachusetts, indicate continued interest and growing competition in the U.S. offshore wind sector.  The quickening pace of activity in the U.S. offshore wind market, including completion of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island offshore wind farm and today’s auction process for offshore North Carolina, suggests that offshore wind projects may become a more important part of the U.S. power generation portfolio in the coming years.  In addition, the unsolicited application for offshore New York and the federal government’s response may provide an early indication as to the Trump Administration’s position on offshore wind development going forward.  Increased activity and a new administration in the White House present opportunities to engage on this issue and shape the policies that will govern the federal offshore leasing program for the next four or eight years, or beyond. Read More

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