The pioneering wind turbine installation company Shetland Wind Power has been sold in a multi-million pound deal which is likely to see it expand to become a major UK player.
The firm started 17 years ago by Michael Anderson from Hoswick has been snapped up by Nevis Capital, a Glasgow private equity investor which has recently been making inroads into the energy sector. Mr Anderson is continuing to work as technical director and keeps a minority shareholding.
Yesterday he said: “Obviously I’m very, very pleased. It is fantastic to sell the company and have a success story sitting there. But, genuinely, it’s not been about the money.”
He said he never expected renewables to take off quite to the extent that they have. After expanding into the rest of the UK and from Sligo in Ireland he said it had got to the stage with new legislation and other changes over the past year that the company was struggling to cope with the demands and the workload.
Describing himself as “a seven-day-a-week man”, he said the company had looked at growing itself further but that would have meant spending even more time working. “It never stops so this is more about developing the company and lifestyle changes,” he said.
Shetland Wind Power already has 14 workers and is currently looking to recruit more. It has doubled its turnover every year for the past three years, having now installed over 250 micro and small-scale turbines from Unst to Cornwall as well as in Ireland. They power schools, farms and community buildings as well as major buildings such as the Glasgow Science Centre.
There are about 60 installed in Shetland including one at the Aith lifeboat station which powers the building and keeps the lifeboat’s engines warm as well as at public halls, schools like Lunnasting and the Shetland Amenity Trust’s turbine on the Staney Hill which heats a large greenhouse and other buildings on the Staney Hill.
The company has its main base at the SBS Base in Lerwick and has a training and distribution centre at Throsk in Stirling. The Shetland base will continue but a head office will be established at Nevis Capital’s existing power and industrial services hub in Milngavie, which is a 6.5 acre site bought earlier this year to house Nevis’ other portfolio companies Apex Generators and Dieselec Generators.
Mr Anderson said Nevis wanted Shetland to be its technical centre. “It always was a Shetland company and I’m really pleased Nevis has taken a stance on not only maintaining Shetland but actually making it one of their main bases and developing it.”
The new managing director is Sandy Speirs while the four Nevis Capital partners, Brian Aitken, David Bell and brothers John Pirrie and James Pirrie have all been appointed to the Shetland Wind Power’s board.
Nevis obviously is obviously hoping to capitalise on the increased demand for wind turbines stimulated by feed-in tariffs paid to their owners through a UK government scheme started in April which will run for the next 20 years. Energy companies will pay a turbine owner for each kiloWatt of electricity generated (whether used by the owner or not) and, at least on the UK mainland, any surplus energy can be sold back to the National Grid.
Shetland Wind Power’s business in its native islands has been thwarted somewhat by the limitations of the Shetland grid which is currently unable to accept any more wind power because the power stations cannot cope with the fluctuations in power levels as wind strength varies.
Commenting on the takeover, Nevis Capital partner David Bell said: “Our experience in scaling up businesses on a UK-wide level has been illustrated with the success of rolling out LCH Generators as a national industrial services brand. Nevis Capital’s intention is to replicate that growth through investment into Shetland Wind Power – a market leading brand which is well-placed to exploit demand for self-generated electricity.”
The Shetland Wind Power acquisition is the second successful transaction in a week for Nevis Capital after its company Dieselec acquired Thistle Generators. Dieselec supplies, installs and services large standby electricity generators.
Nevis Capital is currently working on two further transactions that it expects to complete before the end of the year.