Steelcase Makes Five-Year Commitment to a Texas Wind Farm

Grand Rapids, USA – Office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc. bought all of the renewable energy produced by a Texas wind farm for the next five years – and a golden branding opportunity.

The farm, located in Panhandle, Texas, is still in the financing stage and won’t start operating until May. The company claims the buy represents the first time a company has bought all the renewable energy certificates (REC) from a wind farm in the financing stage.

The company wouldn’t say how much the RECs cost but they are the equivalent of about 20 percent of the electricity the company uses in the U.S.

But the deal does include the rights to name the 10-megawatt farm, which will be called the “Wege Wind Energy Farm, provided by Steelcase,” in honor of Peter Wege, an environmentalist and founding family member of Steelcase. The project is being developed by John Deer Renewables.

The move is part of the company’s plan of reducing its carbon footprint 25 percent by 2012. Though uncommon now, some expect similar actions in the future.

“The demand for wind power and for REC’s is outpacing the supply, so I won’t be surprised to see more companies trying to lock up the renewable energy credits that become available,” Andrew Winston, an environmental consultant and co-author of “Green to Gold,” told the New York Times.

Bradley W. Johnson, John Deere’s director of business development, said his company has received expressions of interest from other companies to finance other small wind farms in exchange for naming rights.

Ted G. Rose, vice president for business development for Renewable Energy Choices, which brokered the Steelcase deal, agreed that this could be the start of a new trend.

“This is a new business model, and it could attract any brand that wants to be linked with sustainability,” he told the New York Times.

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