Local wind firm $ells to BP

Matthew Hantzmon (left) and Sandy Reisky have really thrown their future to the wind. They just sold their Charlottesville-based company, Greenlight Energy, to a division of energy giant BP for $98 million.

"Greenlight is one of the more successful wind developers in the country, so it's not surprising they were able to strike a deal with BP," says Jennifer Zajac, an energy industry analyst with SNL Financial.

Founded in 2000, Greenlight has a portfolio of 39 mature and early-stage American wind energy projects, with a potential total power-generating capacity of 6.5 gigawatts, according to BP.

"We think it's a great opportunity for us," says BP spokesperson Sarah Howell. "Wind power is one of the legs of this new company, BP Alternative Energy. It's just going to be a great asset and give us a stronghold in the U.S. wind power market."

Howell says she expects that Greenlight will remain headquartered in Charlottesville and that all 20 employees will be invited to remain. She declines comment on a report by SNL Financial that at least one of the principals will depart.

BP was in the news last week when it triggered a run on oil by announcing a suspension of some petroleum operations in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay over rusted pipe concerns. Yet wind energy has environmental concerns of its own– including bat and bird kills. But as previously reported in the Hook, Greenlight focuses its efforts not on environmentally sensitive mountainous areas along the eastern seaboard but on the American midwest.

In a 2002 interview, Reisky revealed that his company typically would approach Midwestern ranchers and sign 40-year leases for the rights to place turbines on the land. Far from the critical slopes, delicate fauna, and crusading activists of scenic Appalachian areas, Reisky and Hantzmon said they encountered few political storms in the heartland.

"It's a capital-intensive business fraught with regulatory challenges, NIMBY opponents, and environmental concerns," says SNL analyst Zajac. "The ultimate objective of many of these start-up wind development companies is to get enough projects online so that a major player like BP or Shell comes along and acquires them."

A woman answering the phone at Greenlight said that neither Reisky nor Hantzmon was available today for comment.

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3 comments

BP, in most respects, seems to be a more progressive energy company. Just saying...

When alternative energy companies sell out to oil companies, doesn't it foretell the end of alternative energy? As long as there's oil to pump out of the ground, they have zero incentive to develop anything new.

Well, their TV and print ads seem to make that point, so it's probably true. We all know that oil companies would never misrepresent their ecological concerns.