This week British Airways (BA) committed to invest in a facility that converts landfill waste into jet fuel.
It is working on the project, called GreenSky, with Solena Fuels on a site in Essex. When complete, BA will buy 50,000 tonnes of fuel a year from the facility — or 42% of its total output. Which is all very well, but why is it relevant for wind?
The answer lies in the structure of the deal. We need more wind energy firms to undertake similar agreements to that which BA has finalised with GreenSky.
The reason for this is certainty. Governments are looking to rein in the subsidies that give developers and investors the certainty to proceed. In the absence of fresh capital from the traditional investment market, corporate deals could step in and help.
We have of course, already seen some similar deals in wind.
Last week, furniture giant Ikea bought the 98MW Hoopeston wind farm in Illinois to provide the energy needed by its US operations.
This is good for Apex Clean Energy, which will continue to develop the wind farm and run it after construction completes; and it gives Ikea certainty over its future energy supply.
Ikea's deal isn't a one-off. Microsoft announced in November that it would buy the entire output from the 110MW Keechi Wind facility in Texas to power its data centres.
And Google has done similar deals globally, including a ten-year deal with Eolus Wind in January to buy energy from four Swedish wind farms to power a Finnish data centre.
Even so, given the scale of the market these deals are rare and more should be done.
Such deals can give developers the confidence to start projects as it is guaranteed that they will be able to sell what they produce.
There is a parallel here with shopping and retail developers too – since they don't start to build without having the tenants lined up to fill their major units. Those big headline deals give them the confidence that they need to start building. Similar rules apply in wind.
And here’s the thing. These corporate deals are more attractive than conventional export deals where the wind farm operator rarely gets long-term certainty over how much energy the grid will buy, or at what price.
The benefits for blue-chip firms of buying energy in this way is that they get assurance about energy pricing and can safeguard long-term supply. It helps with adding a little ‘green’ to the financial reports, too.
But the wind sector can't sit back and wait for these deals to land.
Traditionally, the sector has developed a reputation for the strength of its government lobbying – particularly where securing subsidies are concerned. While this still remains critical, perhaps this focus now needs to be split. And directed at a new target – namely, lobbying the blue chips and the corporates, to buy more energy directly.
As subsidies reside, these deals offer more certainty than many might think.
Four Republican congressmen have called for a halt to US offshore wind projects because of unsubstantiated claims blaming the industry for whale deaths. But this obvious misinformation can still be a threat for the growth of the industry.