Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The further mainstreaming of wind power

More news today of the fact that wind power is now mainstream in the energy market. As this NYT article describes, Zilkha Renewable Energy (one of the largest independent wind power developers) has been acquired by Goldman Sachs.

Goldman was already holding some interests in several wind power projects, but this is still a big step. The energy merchant/ trading industry is focused on one thing -- the bottom line. And for Goldman to be entering the business at such scale is just one illustration of the fact that a lot of smart money is now getting into wind power. Indeed, in many cases (e.g., in Texas), wind power is already less expensive on a per kWh basis than natural gas-fired power.

And let us not forget the Zilkhas. With a strong entrepreneurial history behind them, the father and son team founded Zilkha Renewable Energy after selling their previous venture -- an oil exploration company -- for $1B. They jumped from oil to wind in 1998, when wind wasn't such a clear-cut proposition, and it paid off. Watch them to see their next moves in the energy space...

Unfortunately for venture investors, the dominance of large players such as GE, Goldman, etc. into wind power means that we have now entered the next phase, where the easy plays in that market are now harder to find. Software, remote monitoring and control, and basic equipment refinements can still make for profitable plays, but the "home run" opportunities aren't clear. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other generation, storage, and infrastructure plays out there for venture investors in the clean energy space. See this Fortune Magazine special section for some ideas along these lines.


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