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March 10, 2012 1:24 PM

Wind Farm Deals Fill Sails for Am Law 200 Firms

Posted by Brian Baxter

Five Am Law 200 firms hitched a ride on an $888 million U.S. wind farm deal announced Friday, the latest in a series of transactions in the renewable energy sector so far this year.

Husch Blackwell corporate partner James Goettsch in Kansas City, Missouri, is leading a team of lawyers from the firm advising Algonquin Power & Utilities on the acquisition of a 480-megawatt portfolio of four wind projects from Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica.

Algonquin, which takes its name from the Native American Indian tribe of northeastern Canada and the United States, operates a series of hydroelectric plants, water treatment facilities, and renewable energy projects in the same region. The acquisition of wind farm assets in Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Texas from Gamesa will help the company expand its renewable energy reach in the other regions of the U.S.

Other Husch lawyers working on the deal for suburban Toronto-based Algonquin include real estate and development partner John Crossley, tax partner Jason Reschly, M&A partner Edward Wilson, finance partners Teresa Reinking and Christopher Rockers, and energy partner Brogan Sullivan. Algonquin's general counsel is Mary McDonald.

The Am Law Daily reported this week on Husch's disappointing financial numbers for 2011 and subsequent partner deequitizations.

Christopher Moore, an energy and infrastructure partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in New York, is leading a team from the firm advising Vizcaya, Spain–based Gamesa on the transaction that includes tax partner Greg Riddle and energy and infrastructure partners A. Paul Zarnowiecki and Adam Wenner. Stroock & Stroock & Lavan is also providing legal counsel to Gamesa. Iñigo Cisneros serves as head of the in-house legal department at the Spanish company, which owns wind farms in 20 countries.

Algonquin said in a statement that the acquisition of the Gamesa wind farms would double the size of its independent power generation portfolio. The projects will be acquired through a joint venture called American Wind Portfolio Holdings, whose members include Algonquin, which owns 51 percent; Gamesa, which owns 49 percent; and certain tax equity investors.

J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corporation and Morgan Stanley will also participate in the joint venture, contributing $360 million, according to the Daily Deal. J.P. Morgan has agreed to buy power from the four plants, which will be operated by Gamesa under a 20-year contract with Algonquin.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy is representing J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy, while lawyers from Hogan Lovells and Hunton & Williams are advising the tax equity investors.

Last month Hunton energy partner Raj Pande, who joined the firm two years ago from Paul Hastings, led a team from the firm representing Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi on its purchase of a majority 34 percent stake in Marena Renovables, a $1 billion wind farm in Oaxaca, Mexico, which upon completion will be one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.

Mitsubishi partnered with Dutch pension fund manager PGGM on the deal. Seller Macquarie Mexican Infrastructure—a consortium comprised of Fomento Economico Mexicano and Macquarie Capital—will retain a 32.5 percent stake in the project.

The consortium was advised on the Marena Renovables transaction by a team of lawyers from Chadbourne & Parke. The firm claims to have closed more than $20 billion in project finance deals last year, including several high-profile solar and wind projects.

The Am Law Daily reported in December on the key advisory roles taken by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Farella Braun + Martel, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on a deal that saw the utility arm of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway move into the solar energy market by acquiring Topaz Solar Farm from Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar.

If the Oracle of Omaha is betting on the renewable power industry, expect to see more deals like these in the future.

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