Details on how Sunwealth’s Solar Impact Fund looks to scale commercial solar


Sunwealth is an innovative clean energy investment firm looking to bring commercial solar to scale with its Solar Impact Fund. The fund offers investors two compelling ways to invest – via tax equity or a bond offering – in the vastly untapped commercial solar asset class.

Sunwealth seeks to create wider-reaching social and environmental impact – without sacrificing finan-cial return – by combining commercial solar projects for credit-worthy businesses, municipalities, and non-profit organizations into a single investment vehicle.

The first tranche in the fund is comprised of six projects providing renewable solar energy to fire departments, schools, and businesses in New York and New England, including Sika Sarnafil’s U.S. headquarters in Canton, Mass., and the Montessori School of Northampton, Mass. All six projects were recently placed in service, and to date the Solar Impact Fund has exceeded performance expectations.

The second tranche, with a bond offering of $1.5M and tax equity offering of $1M, will include nine additional projects to build on the Solar Impact Fund’s initial success.

“Commercial solar is built on proven technology, high technical potential, and is a driving force in the decentralization, de-carbonization, and democratization of our energy grid,” said Jonathan Abe, Chief Executive Officer at Sunwealth. “The Solar Impact Fund provides investors with a simple, transparent, and predictable investment. They know which projects they are funding and can track the measurable impact they are delivering.”

The Fund’s first two tranches will produce more than 1,691 metric tons of carbon offsets per annum, over $2,115,000 in energy savings for power purchasers, and generate more than 50 job years for so-phisticated positions among locally-based solar firms.

Sunwealth invests alongside its investors by owning and operating each project within the Solar Impact Fund. The firm’s technology-driven insight paired with a proprietary underwriting process identifies high-performing projects that can generate meaningful financial returns. The standardized and pooled-project approach dramatically reduces transaction costs and gives investors access to a diverse set of projects that combat climate change and strengthen communities through job creation and access to clean energy.


— Solar Builder magazine

Solar projects out perform estimates, while wind projects under perform, says Fitch

solar pv plant production

Fitch Ratings‘ analysis of rated wind energy projects across EMEA, the US and Latin America, as well as solar photovoltaic (PV) energy projects across EMEA and the US shows electricity production from solar projects has tended to exceed initial independent estimates, while wind projects have more often underperformed against expectations. The more predictable nature of solar power is reflected in our ratings through the lower debt-service cover ratio a solar project generally needs to achieve investment-grade status compared to a wind project.

“We compared actual production data from Fitch-rated renewable projects against the initial P50 forecasts (the annual production level the project is expected to exceed 50 percent of the time),” Fitch stated in its report. “The study takes into account data gathered since 2010 for wind and since 2011 for solar, and excludes ramp-up phases. We found 70 percent of annual observations across solar projects were at or above the original P50 levels, and only 3 percent were significantly (more than 10 percent) below the initial forecasts, which are provided by independent experts.”

EIA: Utility-scale solar to see 36 percent increase in 2017

But around three-quarters of wind project observations were below the P50 level and 43 percent were significantly below. These numbers exclude the onshore wind Breeze transactions, which Fitch does not consider representative of the broader wind sector and whose bonds are low non-investment grade.

“Wind project underperformance is due to three factors,” according to Fitch. “The greater technical challenge in fore-casting led to some initial overestimation of power production. Higher natural resource volatility has affected some projects, including unusually low wind in the Western US last year. And some wind projects have also been hit by problems with equipment.”

In contrast, solar projects have benefitted from better-than-expected solar irradiance and plant availability. The track record of solar projects is shorter, but they clearly have lower operational risk, better generation performance and lower volatility than wind projects. They are also more resilient to downside scenarios, as shown by stronger financial metrics under one-in-100-year generation assumptions.

— Solar Builder magazine

Mercom Capital Group: Top 5 Global PV projects funded in Q2 2017


1. JinkoSolar, Marubeni Corporation, Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority ReNew Power secured a $870 million financing package in financial agreements with a syndicate of international and local banks for the debt and equity funding of the 1,177 MW Sweihan independent solar power project in the Eastern Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

2. Masdar, EDF Energies Nouvelles, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority obtained $655 million in financing for the 800 MW Phase 3 Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar project in Dubai from a set of seven different institutions including: Union National Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP), Natixis, Siemens Financial Services, the Korea Development Bank, and Export Development Canada (EDC).

3. Octupus Investment, secured £485 million (~$621 million) as a nonrecourse portfolio financing to refinance a portfolio of 74 ground-mounted solar PV projects totaling 522 MW in the UK from six banks including: Banca IMI, Barclays, BNP Paribas, La Caixa, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Santander Global Corporate Banking.

4. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) board approved a $500 million framework under the Egyptian government’s FiT program to finance 13 projects under the framework with a further three scheduled for board discussion. These 16 projects to be constructed on one large site near the village of Benban in Upper Egypt will deliver 750 MW of solar PV capacity.

5. Saeta Yield, a Spanish yieldco, secured €200 million (~$224 million) in refinancing from a syndicate of banks led by Banco Sabadell for the 49.9 MW Manchasol 2 thermal solar project in Alcazar de San Juan, Ciudad Real, Spain. The syndicate is comprised of: Banco Sabadell, Banco Santander, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, and Societe Generale together with several investment funds.

16 community solar projects across Massachusetts being financed by Key Equipment Finance

— Solar Builder magazine

Why energy density matters — and three ways to maximize It

as much energy for the space as possible

System designs like this squeeze as much energy out of your available space as possible.

In previous generations of solar installations, the primary cost-driver was the electricity-generating modules. But in the past five years, as costs for the modules themselves have fallen, myriad other costs have become far more central to making the economics of projects work.

The increasing financial burden of fixed-cost items like permitting, interconnection and customer acquisition — just to name a few — forces project designers to evaluate closely whether it’s worth paying a premium for the most efficient solutions. When comparing options, engineers need to look at costs over the project’s lifetime, not just the dollars‑per‑peak‑watt cost of respective modules.

Solar installers generally have less space than needed to generate all the electricity used by a building. Even for distributed-generation ground mounts, where the generation is co-located with the load, developers have space limitations. All of this explains why energy density has become an area of concentration for new product development by manufacturers as of late.

Energy Density Explained

I use the term energy density in this case to indicate the amount of energy that can be generated by a PV system per unit area in a year. Energy density is something that system designers can leverage to achieve the best levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for all solar projects today, whether it’s in rural, suburban or urban areas. A more efficient solar panel or more panels squeezed into the same area will produce more kilowatt hours per square foot.

In recent years, the race to maximize energy density has moved into high gear. From May 2016 to December 2016, four companies broke panel efficiency records (Hanwha set a record in June that it topped in December). Researchers in Australia set a new record at more than 35 percent efficiency, and NREL recommitted itself to the race to find new materials for solar cells that could break the theoretical 29-percent maximum efficiency of traditional silicon solar panels.

The most popular candidates to replace traditional silicon cells are perovskite (which are not yet commercially available) and CIGS thin-film cells like those produced by First Solar. Thin-film panels can not only push efficiencies higher, but they have an added well known benefit of half the temperature coefficient of traditional silicon PV cells.

LCOE Heroes: How inverters drive down PV levelized cost of energy

Three Technologies

But those aren’t the only technologies that can help solar installers produce the best energy density for their clients’ investment. Here are three technologies that will make the most of the space you have, no matter where your project is located:

1) Bifacial solar modules: Bifacial modules capture the sun’s energy on the front and the backs of the panels, significantly increasing the amount of sunlight each module can convert to electricity. This technology is inspiring new thinking on installation, including the idea of installing bifacial modules at unusual orientations, like west-facing vertically, which exposes both sides to sunlight at the same time. The technology is still evolving, but for roof-space-intensive projects, I believe bifacial modules hold a lot of promise.

2) Creative racking solutions: When space is sparse, creativity is crucial. For example, when Standard Solar won a DC Department of General Services (DC DGS) contract to install solar arrays on 30 buildings in the densely populated Washington, D.C., area, the engineering team realized quickly that we had to figure out how to maximize the energy density on such tight roofs. The solution, as it turned out, was a high-density racking solution — double-sided with limited row spacing — that allowed us to pack more panels into the same space. As a result, the project was able to realize more kilowatts on each roof because the racking systems allowed an array design that was as aggressive as possible to produce a higher power output from the space.

3) MLPEs: Module-level power electronics provide high granularity for module power output control, shade tolerance and data monitoring for the asset managers. MLPEs have been mostly relegated to residential applications where significant shading issues are common. However, MPLEs can deliver better yield by reducing losses even when no shade is present. MLPEs also open wider options for array design and placement — an advantage for engineers looking to maximize the power production of any given space.

As the costs of modules continue to plummet and the share of other costs increase as part of the financial calculations involved in a solar project, installers and engineers must perform a detailed cost-benefit analysis of how to increase the amount of power a project can deliver from any given space to maximize project economics.

And as the space for arrays becomes increasingly restricted, engineers and installers will have to use all the equipment and innovation at their disposal to increase energy density — and keep the solar revolution growing.

C.J. Colavito is director of engineering at Standard Solar.

— Solar Builder magazine

Free PPA Rate Finder tool for solar developers launched by SolRiver Capital

SolRiver Capital PPA rates

SolRiver Capital, a Colorado-based solar investment fund, announced the launch of its free PPA Rate Finder tool for solar developers. Developers enter a desired purchase price for their solar project into the Rate Finder. Then it tells them the PPA rate needed to get that price.

“Solar developers often ask us what PPA price per kilowatt hour they need to hit a certain funding amount for their project. The Rate Finder is a tool that gives them that number,” said Brandon Conard, Managing Partner of SolRiver Capital.

How it works

To use the Rate Finder, developers provide basic information about a project. The inputs include basic system specs, a few operating costs, and any project incentives. From there, the Rate Finder combines the developer’s assumptions and desired purchase price with SolRiver’s financial model. The Rate Finder then displays the power purchase agreement rate needed for the developer to get their desired purchase price from SolRiver.

The Rate Finder is free to use. SolRiver hopes that having no-cost access to its financial model helps developers confidently bid on clean energy RFP’s or negotiate PPA rates with off-takers.

“We know that coming up with a PPA rate for a bid is a critical and sometimes stressful process. The Rate Finder is a simple way for developers to easily estimate what PPA rates allow them to achieve their goals,” explained Conard.

Financing beyond FICO: Using asset-backed loans, PACE to get solar deals done


— Solar Builder magazine