NEWS- Seeing green: Local wind-grabbers sell to BP

Matthew Hantzmon 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 expressed hope that most of the 20 employees will 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 an oil price spike by announcing a suspension of some petroleum operations in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay because of rusted pipes. 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 immediately available for comment.

Matt Hantzmon

Sandy Reisky