Thailand’s Nopporn “Nick” Suppipat might just be the most successful wind energy investor you’ve never heard of.
At the tender age of 43, he’s just debuted on the Forbes rich list – thanks to a billion dollar fortune that’s been built up, in the main, through his canny investment in developing and building out the very first two Thai Wind farms.
And here’s the really interesting part: those two projects have a combined capacity of just 207MW. Not a bad return, based on a pure MW-by-MW basis.
Owned and operated by Wind Energy Holdings – the business he founded in 2009 and in which he retains a majority (65%) stake – the two wind farms have benefitted from a lucrative government feed-in tariff. His story shows the sheer audacity required to be a modern-day developer; and the risks you have to be willing to take in order to break new ground.
Back when he was seeking approval for the projects, the Thai authorities were certain that the wind resource within the country was insufficient to make large-scale commercial wind energy a viable electricity generating opportunity.
The resource just wasn’t there — or so they thought.
That meant that the Thai government set a feed-in tariff for wind that was unusually high. The rationale was that this would encourage early interest before developers eventually settled on something a little safer – like solar, perhaps. And lo, many developers followed this logic straight into solar.
Not so for Suppipat. He stuck to his view that wind energy development was a viable energy-generating alternative. He commissioned Garrad Hassan to undertake a wind yield assessment and, shortly thereafter, signed a 45 2.3MW turbine supply agreement with Siemens. And then he held his nerve.
Scroll forwards five years and those generous government subsidies have helped Wind Energy Holdings to pay back its original debt. The company is already registering strong returns, with a reported profit of a cool $25m last year.
Little wonder, then, that Suppipat is now eyeing an initial public offering to help fund a proposed regional expansion totalling 650MW, most likely through early-stage project acquisition.
If he succeeds, he’ll have the opportunity to head off the growing competition within the region. This competition includes Thai developer Annex Power and Singapore-based firm Blue Circle, who recently confirmed a $200m partnership to invest in Thai wind.
Suppipat may have installed the first 207MW of Thai wind energy installed but, with the market forecast to continue to grow in the next few years, he’ll need a clear commercial strategy mapped out ahead of him. That is vital if he is to retain first mover advantage and that Forbes billion-dollar crown.
The Inflation Reduction Act has sparked major optimism in the US renewables sector, but wind installations still fell 37% last year.