Deere & Co. (DE) has hired investment banker Goldman Sachs & Co. to explore the sale of Deere's wind energy business.

Deere, the world's largest manufacturer of farm machinery by sales, said Thursday it is "reviewing its strategic options" for the energy business, adding that no final decisions have been made. Industry observers estimate the business is worth about $1.5 billion, based on recent sale prices for wind-power infrastructure.

"From a strategic standpoint, it never made a whole lot of sense" to be in wind energy, said Adam Fleck, an analyst for Morningstar Inc. "Refocusing on their core equipment brand is a good move."

Deere's energy business was launched in 2005 with money from its customer and dealer financing company, John Deere Credit. Deere has invested more than $1.1 billion in wind projects, but it scaled back its investment level in 2009 in the wake of lower credit company income and falling prices for electricity.

Continued low prices for electricity prices, tighter access to credit and the anticipated reduction in government spending on wind-energy development could limit the field of potential buyers for Deere's energy business, observers said.

The Moline, Ill., company spent $1 million on wind energy in 2009, but signaled late last year that it expects to increase its investment level to about $200 million in 2010.

Deere has provided financing for 34 wind-energy projects in seven states with a total capacity of 706 megawatts. The company also said there are "numerous" projects still under development.

The American Wind Energy Association, the national trade group for the wind energy industry, identified Deere as the 10th-largest U.S. wind energy company at the end of 2008. Rankings for 2009 have not yet been released.