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Wind Industry Profile of

Windfair-Interview with Todd Coles, Partner-Practice Group Leader, Troutman Sanders LLP

Windfair: Mr. Coles, welcome to the Windfair Newsletter interview. Please tell us about Troutman Sanders. What is your company's role in the Wind Energy Industry?

Todd Coles: Troutman Sanders LLP is an international law firm with over 640 attorneys and 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Since the 1920’s we have acted as counsel to key participants in the electric power industry. Out of this practice Troutman Sanders became actively involved in the growth of the independent power industry in the early 1980’s, including renewable and cogeneration projects under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). Our renewable practice grew exponentially and we now represent clients from the early, strategic stages of investment and tax structuring to the development, construction, operation and financing of renewable and alternative energy projects worldwide.

Our renewable practice is primarily focused on solar and wind, though we have significant experience with geothermal, biomass, hydro and most other forms of renewable energy. In the wind sector, we represent investors, utilities, independent power producers (IPPs) and developers in wind projects throughout the United States. We are experienced in counseling our clients through every stage of wind project development and financing, including environmental and permitting, site acquisition, turbine procurement, construction and balance of plant, interconnection and transmission arrangements, power purchase and renewable energy credit (REC) sales, debt and equity financing, tax equity and tax credits, and project acquisition and divesture. We are an active member of the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition and our attorneys regularly speak at various wind conferences throughout the year.

Windfair: Your personal experience spans many projects through multiple energy sectors; tell us about a recent Wind Energy project or development.

Todd Coles: Some of our most recent wind transactions include:
Represented an investor owned utility with respect to its investment in a 80 MW wind farm including assessment of alternative ownership and investment structures, utility financing, and ratemaking treatment options.

Advised an international wind power developer on navigating the environmental and regulatory landscape of placing offshore wind turbines along the Atlantic Coast.

Renegotiation of tax equity’s interest in a "flip" wind partnership owning a wind farm in California, including restructuring project documents to permit development of a new affiliated wind farm.

Represented a major independent power producer in its acquisition and development of a wind project in Nevada.

Represented U.S. utilities and developers in connection with the negotiation of multiple wind-powered power purchase agreements.

Counseled a large utility company in the purchase of a wind power company for compliance with future renewable portfolio standard requirements by analyzing the potential environmental and other regulatory risks associated with the purchase.

Represented a major wind developer before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) on issues related to the development and integration of wind and other variable energy resources, including generation imbalance, wind integration charges and self- supply of wind balancing services.

Windfair: What are your thoughts regarding the federal production tax credit (PTC) system in place? What does the future hold without sufficient federal support?

The PTC and Section 1603 Treasury grant program have been critical to the success of the wind sector in the U.S. these past few years. The Section 1603 Treasury grant program has been especially important during and after the recession because of the significantly diminished capacity of the tax equity market to monetize the PTCs. Considerable effort has and will continue to be made to extend both these programs beyond their current expiration dates. Unfortunately, in the current fiscal austerity environment, these efforts will meet with considerable resistance. Whether these programs will be extended is uncertain, but absent their extension, and in the absence of an alternative mechanism to provide for renewable support, the amount of wind powered capacity installed in the U.S. will likely decline.

Windfair: Tell us about your future developments. What can we expect in the next year or two?

It appears unlikely that a federal renewable energy standard (RES) will be enacted in the near term. Absent a federal program, wind development will be driven by compliance with state renewable portfolio standards (RPS). With a number of states having already satisfied their respective RPSs, these programs will need to be increased to have a stimulative effect on the wind and other renewable energy sectors. Alternatively, there needs to be one or more new federal or state programs to increase the demand for renewable energy. We are currently working with a client on the formulation of an alternative federal program that would enhance the demand for renewable energy and create long term power purchase agreements and REC sale agreements that will support project financing of renewable projects. These efforts have been well received by both Houses of Congress which are looking to explore alternative programs which support the growth of the renewable energy sector in the U.S. without adding to the federal deficit and without imposing mandates on the states or the electric utility sector.

Windfair: Is the Wind Energy industry a priority for your company? How so?

Yes. Troutman Sanders was founded on a tradition of service to electric utility clients. From this we naturally expanded into the renewable energy sector in the 1980’s. Now, our renewable energy group is primarily focused on solar and wind projects, and the firm has committed time, money and resources (staff, lateral hiring and technology) to ensure our group is a success. On the wind side, the firm is committed to promoting both onshore and offshore wind initiatives and our attorneys are heavily involved in the sponsoring and planning of wind conferences, webinars and podcasts to educate the industry on various legal issues surrounding wind projects. We are also active members in several major organizations which promote wind projects; including ACORE and the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition.

Windfair: How many employees does your company have? How many dedicated to Wind Energy?

Our firm has approximately 648 attorneys, of which 65 are members of our Renewable Energy Practice. This practice group brings together experienced lawyers from various practices of the firm to create a multidisciplinary team with expertise in energy, project finance, tax, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, lending and structured finance, securities and capital markets, legislative affairs and intellectual property. Approximately 25 practice members have wind experience.

Windfair: Do you have any new or upcoming Wind Energy Products or Services?

We will continue to service clients in the wind sector and plan to expand our offshore wind practice.

Windfair: Do you have any special training programs for your employees?

Our attorneys attend and participate in various wind conferences, webinars and podcasts related to the wind power sector. Internally, we conduct bi-monthly renewable energy meetings with our attorneys. During these meetings, we discuss important renewable energy developments and include a substantive educational component on developments in the renewable energy sector, including wind.
Windfair editorial team

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