Power Player

Invenergy’s Michael Polsky is an energy opportunist.

He once built gas-fired generators. Today, he’s building the country’s largest wind farm—because he thinks it will make him richer

In 2001, Michael Polsky found himself snared in the entrepreneur’s trap. He’d sold the power company he co-founded to the giant utility Calpine and agreed to stay on and run it for a while. He was miserable, but quitting meant leaving money on the table. After eight seemingly endless months, he persuaded his corporate overlords to let him go. The agreement he reached with Calpine even allowed him to take five people with him, including longtime operating partner Jim Murphy.

Although Polsky was clearly planning another startup, Calpine didn’t bother to make him sign a noncompete agreement, he says, “because, obviously, how could six guys compete with a big company?”

Start by taking risks that big companies can’t stomach. Embrace promising technology before they do. Then be just as willing to change course quickly if needed. Polsky’s unending ambition, his accumulated knowledge of power plants, and his shrewd (if a tad early) commitment to wind power have made the new company he founded, Invenergy, the largest independent renewable energy provider in North America, a nearly $1 billion lone wolf in an industry dominated by behemoths like Duke, NRG, and Southern Company. Invenergy developed its first project in 2003, a total loser of a wind farm in Tennessee called Buffalo Mountain. Since then, the economic winds have shifted. Invenergy has built 78 wind farms—mainly in the U.S. but also in Canada,

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