Deals to Watch: Private Equity Eyes Spanish Wind

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Private equity fund First Reserve is making a push into Spanish wind energy just as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and solar profitability come into increasing focus.

First Reserve, a private equity fund with an energy focus that has invested in oil drillers Deep Gulf Energy and Cobalt International Energy ( CIE) is looking to bolster existing alternative energy investments like SunEdison in a $1 billion wind joint venture with Spain's Renovalia Energy, according to Reuters reports.

First Reserve will pump $150 million in equity alongside an equally sized investment by Renovalia that with leverage will create a $1 billion wind energy investment platform. The venture will be called Renovalia Reserve and will have 295 megawatts of wind energy capacity concentrated in Spain, with the potential to double output through projects in Canada, Romania and others in Spain.

The venture comes at a time of economic and industry uncertainty. Spain has increasingly come under the pressure of bond markets as investors question its growth outlook and debt sustainability. In November, Mariano Rajoy of the Spanish conservative Popular Party won an election to replace Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as Prime Minister.

Also in November, Spanish government bond yields touched on record levels since the creation of the European common currency as bond auctions and bank solvency issues weighed in investor confidence in the country.

In Spain, which is the world's fourth largest wind energy market, government subsidies have come under increasing doubt with the escalation of budget issues. The newly elected government is expected to cut renewable energy subsidies as part of a push to chip away at a 20 billion euro shortfall in regulated power taxes.

Currently, Renovalia Energy is a privately-owned by the Ortega Martinez family, who uses the company to power its Grupo Forlasa dairy business. In 2010, the family sold its dairy business to Lactalis of France to concentrate on its energy investments, according to Reuters reports.

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-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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