Two Alternative Energy Companies Brave Anti-IPO Winds

August doldrums don’t appear to be affecting the New England clean energy industry. Two area companies—one in wind, one in solar—filed for initial public offerings with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. Together the companies hope to raise three-quarters of a billion dollars—and to restore some movement to the technology IPO market, which has been largely stalled since the beginning of the year.

First there’s First Wind, the Newton, MA, company formerly known as UPC Wind, which filed S-1 registration papers indicating it hopes to raise $450 million in an offering underwritten by Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan. The 130-employee company, which we profiled in January in relation to a wind project in northern Maine, has wind farms operating or in development in six states and one Canadian province. First Wind said it will apply to be listed on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol “WNDY.”

In its filing, First Wind noted that wind energy is the fastest-growing source of new electricity in the United States and is expected to account for 1.8 percent of electricity production by 2012. The Department of Energy is studying the feasibility of raising that proportion to 20 percent by 2030, which would require the construction of more than 300,000 megawatts of generating capacity. But wind farms aren’t always popular neighbors, and whoever takes on the challenge of siting thousands of new turbines will have to deal with a huge maze of permitting processes and regulatory reviews; First Wind, which has so far constructed facilities in both New England and Hawaii, touts itself as uniquely skilled at that part of the process.

The other New England energy company announcing its IPO intentions this week is Enfield, CT-based STR Holdings, owner of Specialized Technology Resources Inc., which isn’t a solar energy company per se but manufactures the plastic laminates and encapsulants (ethylene-vinyl-acetate polymers, to be exact) that insulate and protect the semiconducting materials used in photovoltaic solar panels. STR hopes to raise $300 million on the New York Stock Exchange, with Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs as underwriters. It plans to trade under the symbol “PVS.”

The company already supplies encapsulants to solar module manufacturers such as BP Solar, First Solar, Solarwatt AG, SunPower Corporation, and United Solar Ovonic; STR says its customers cumulatively covered 30 percent of the global market for photovoltaic panels in 2007. Solar energy is a field in turmoil, with dozens of companies racing to develop cheaper, more efficient photovoltaic cells. But STR says in its S-1 filing that it’s in a strong position to supply components to the industry whichever way the technology develops, since it will always be necessary to package and protect photovoltaic panels before installing them in outdoor environments.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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