Today in New West news: Vestas Wind Systems to build wind turbines for Berkshire Hathaway Energy farm, cottage-style homes in Bozeman, an uptick in coal shipments, and an update on Louisville-based GlobeImmune Inc.
According to the Denver Business Journal, Vestas Wind Systems (which has four manufacturing plants in the state of Colorado) has been tapped by Berkshire Hathaway Energy to build approximately 1,000 wind turbines for an Iowan wind farm—the largest single order ever placed in the U.S. (and, in all likelihood, the world). Further, the company is largely owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose CEO is none other than billionaire Warren Buffett. From the Journal:
Under the agreement, Vestas will supply up to 1,000 wind turbines, specifically the V110-2.0 megawatt model, to MidAmerican’s 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project in Iowa.
MidAmerican Energy, a utility based in Des Moines and serving 752,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska, highlighted the agreement with Vestas in a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board.
If board approves the project, the turbines will be delivered and commissioned from 2016 to 2019, Vestas said.
“This project, if approved, will bring considerable economic benefits to MidAmerican’s rate payers and communities, and Vestas is proud to partner with MidAmerican Energy in their commitment to generate 100 percent renewable energy,” said Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ sales and service division in the United States and Canada.
The company employs about 4,000 people in four plants: a blades plant in Windsor; a blades plant and a nacelles plant in Brighton; and a towers plant in Pueblo.
Vestas was previously tapped to provide turbines for a new Xcel Energy plant in the works—Colorado’s largest, built on 90,000 acres in the eastern half of the state.
Over in Montana, the city of Bozeman is trying to curb rising house prices, especially as the state becomes more attractive to businesses shut out of places like California and Utah. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, one form of relief could come from a new proposal slated to go before city commissioners Monday, June 27: cottage-style developments:
The aim, said city planner Chris Saunders, is to encourage the construction of smaller, cheaper homes with building patterns that make economical use of land, which is scarce enough inside city limits that lot prices have become a hurdle to bringing cheaper homes to market.
He also said the proposed cottage housing ordinance will provide another option for property owners looking at doing infill development, which can be tricky given the city’s layout requirements for traditional subdivisions.
Home sizes in Bozeman have increased even as the average household size has shrunk, Saunders said, contributing to the affordability challenge.
“They’re about double what they were in the 1950s,” he said, “yet the number of people we have living in those houses has dropped by also half.
“We’re building a lot more house per person,” Saunders said.
A third of Bozeman’s homes have one resident, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, and only 29 percent house three or more people.
Projects developed under the ordinance would also be required to meet affordable housing requirements set by the city, providing either at least a single unit for sale at a price point considered affordable to lower-income families, or at least three at prices affordable to middle-income buyers.
In an April report, Saunders cited the Annie Street Cottages, at the intersection of Annie and Hanson streets in northwest Bozeman, as an example of the type of development that could be encouraged by the ordinance.
Over in Wyoming, mining companies in the Powder River Basin are feeling a little bubbly after they saw weekly coal shipments rise nationwide, according to the Casper Star Tribune. Indeed, shipments were up 26 percent after a low of 10.3 million tons in early April, with 7.3 million tons transported for the week of June 11. A number of factors, including warmer weather and a rise in natural gas prices, are likely at play here. Not everyone is celebrating, however. From the Tribune:
Analysts were nonetheless wary in declaring the turnaround complete. A significant draw down of coal stockpiles and new wave of buying on the part of utilities are needed to alter coal’s outlook, they said.
“First of all, you don’t want to read too much into short-term events,” said Jim Thompson, who heads up North American coal research at IHS Energy, a consulting firm. “You don’t want to catch yourself prematurely saying, ‘We’re climbing out of a ditch.’ That said, the fact that production has been cut, utilities’ opportunities to work into their inventories is meaningful.”
The rebound follows the worst quarter in more than three decades for America’s coal producers. The 173 million tons mined between January and March was the lowest level since 1981, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Producers, many of whom are tangled up in bankruptcy proceedings, have slashed output and trimmed payrolls in the face of dwindling demand.
A move by utilities to purchase long-term supply contracts will be the first sign of a more sustained rebound, Thompson said. But then companies will need to complete their restructuring and emerge from bankruptcy, he noted.
Coal, in short, is showing signs of life, but it has a ways yet to go.
Finally, back in Colorado, we previously reported Lousiville-based biotech firm GlobeImmunie Inc. had experienced a bad quarter, posting a $900,000 loss and saying they had just enough cash and equivalents to stagger ahead to the middle of 2017, after slashing staff. According to the Denver Business Journal, however, things might be looking up for the company—in the form of a takeover, that is:
Is GlobeImmune Inc. a takeover target?
That’s what some investors were thinking on Friday, as shares in the Louisville biotech (Nasdaq: GBIM) shot up more than 61 percent, rising $1.25 to $3.30.
Some stock-touting sites were saying that the company is a likely takeover target, due to its current collaborations with big drug companies.
But in early Monday trading, shares in GlobeImmune were heading down, dropping more than 28 percent.