Beyond 1603 — There is Still Hope

July26, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News

investment for solarThe Federal 1603 Grant, which famously allowed for the monetization of the 30% ITC (investment tax credit), expired at the end of 2011—but that doesn’t mean the end of solar for commercial and industrial customers.

According to a recent report from Renewable Energy World, some renewable energy companies are currently working with commercial and industrial companies to develop new models that provide access to third-party capital. Success will require the combining of several different systems, all of which have similar characteristics like these:

  • Standardization of Documents: Project documentation and varying credit quality are two of the greatest limiters of the C&I market in a non-1603 grant environment. The ability to produce and use a set of repeatable documents will greatly reduce the transaction cost and the time needed for investor review and approval.
  • Utilizing a Single EPC Provider: Quality design and installation and a firm financially capable of providing real installation warrantees will be required to access larger sums of capital and debt to allow for efficient and reliable financing solutions in this market. This will require larger, more financially sound EPC providers or the continued consolidation of smaller firms. Either way the risk of poor design and installation will need to be minimized.
  • Utilizing a Single O&M Provider: The long-term nature of these assets will require professional and guaranteed maintenance from a firm that can stand behind each project and ensure the highest quality of ongoing operations. Large-scale O&M providers will in essence protect the power generation and cash flow of a system backed by institutional investors. This will require higher quality components with long-term bankable warranties.
  • Providing a Bankable Production Guarantee: Different production profiles will add complexity to the predictability of cash flows and will have a profound effect on the availability and cost of project level debt. A meaningful production guarantee from the O&M provider or a credible third party will help to reduce financing costs and streamline the approval process.

Those who can meet these kind of demands will find major benefits from a more streamlined solar market. For more information, see the original article at Renewable Energy World.

(image credit: gridfreepower.info)

US Solar Installations Jump in 2012 First Quarter

June20, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News, Solar Living

SEIA logo
Reports show that solar installations are on the rise in America—jumping 85% higher in the first quarter of 2012. In this year’s first three months, there were a total of 506 megawatts of solar power capacity added throughout the country, making early 2012 the second highest quarterly total on record, according to a report from GTM Research for Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“This really shows the beginning of what we think is going to be a breakout year for the U.S. solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The growth, which was announced shortly after the U.S. Commerce Department imposed new tariffs on imports of solar equipment from China, comes, at least in part, from the finishing of several projects from solar developers that qualified under a national grant program ending in 2011. These projects could keep new installations coming strong through the middle of this year. As for the effect of the new tariffs, some analysts think the they may cause U.S. prices to rise but that at least for now, there are no signs of slowing.

“The U.S. market is robust, and none of the global dynamics that are playing out are going to be a market killer for the U.S.,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM Research in Boston.

According to the findings from SEIA, “Solar electric capacity reached 4,943 MW in the U.S.” already, which is “enough to power 775,000 households.”

To learn more about the 2012′s solar developments and to view details of the report from GTM and Solar Energy Industries Association, go to SEIA.org.

US Bancorp Invests $250M in Solar Fund

June19, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News, Solar Living

US BancorpMinneapolis-based US Bancorp announced recently that, along with residential and commercial solar provider Solar City, it will be investing $250 million in a fund to finance the construction of solar panels for homeowners and businesses. As the sixth and largest project the bank and Colorado-based Solar City have partnered on in the last three years, this brings US Bancorp’s support of renewable energy projects to a whopping total of $700 million.

“U.S. Bancorp and SolarCity are providing customers an end-to-end, clean energy service that costs less than a monthly utility bill,” <a href=”http://www.marketwatch.com/story/solarcity-and-us-bancorp-announce-fund-to-finance-up-to-250-million-in-residential-and-commercial-solar-projects-2012-06-13″>said Zack Boyers, Chairman and CEO of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a community investment subsidiary of U.S. Bank, in a recent press release</a>. “Together, we have already made solar a reality for thousands of homeowners and businesses. With this new fund for SolarCity’s customers, U.S. Bancorp reaffirms its commitment to building sustainable communities by simplifying the adoption of renewable energy sources.”

The fund will provide financial support for solar panels and solar panel installation, allowing customers to pay discounted electricity rates compared to their current utilities. SolarCity will manage everything for the customer, from permits and installation to repairs and maintenance as needed.

“Our partnership with U.S. Bancorp is unique in that it allows families and organizations to pay less for solar power than they pay for electricity from their utility company,” <a href=”http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_20849523/solarcity-bank-finance-up-250-million-solar-projects”>said Benjamin Cook, SolarCity’s vice president of structured finance</a>.

Before this $250 million fund, U.S. Bancorp has done similar previous projects with residential solar companies Sungevity, Vivint and Sunrun, as well as Borrego, a mostly commercial-focused solar provider.

Home Owners, Beware! Solar Leasing Is Not All It’s Cracked up to Be

June14, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News, Solar Living, Soluxe News

solar panels on a houseWhen it comes to obtaining residential solar power, leasing does not equal buying. Unlike leasing cars or office equipment, leasing solar panels for your home brings with it serious consequences for the people who do it, particularly if you should ever want to sell your residence.

“I tell people if there’s even the remotest chance they’re going to sell their house in the next 20 years, they’re better off buying,” said Glenn Bland, owner of Bakersfield solar power company Bland Solar and Air Inc. in a recent news article.

That’s because leased solar panels add a big burden to home owners if their terms aren’t up but they want to move. If you need to sell your home before the lease on your solar panels is up, you have to either

(a) talk the home buyer into assuming the lease (not the best sell tactic) or

(b) purchase the panels for potentially thousands of dollars, depending on where you’re at in your contract.

As we recently demonstrated at SoluxeSolar.com, leasing solar power means more risks and fewer benefits as compared to buying. Consider these facts:

1. Leasing solar power means no federal tax credit, which can be around $6,000, depending on where you live. With leasing, you pay for the power, but the solar company gets the credit, not you.

2. Leasing solar power likewise means no rebates, which in many cases is $5,000 to $10,000, depending on your region. The company you lease from gets that, too.

3. Leasing carries huge risks if you move before your contract is over.

4. Leasing solar panels does not increase your property value the way that buying panels will; in fact, leasing can actually harm your property value, especially if you need to sell and there’s residual payment left on the terms.

According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Energy last year, homes with solar power systems sell for more money than those without—around $17,000 more.

With these kinds of facts and data, it just doesn’t make any sense to lease. To learn more about buying solar panels and the benefits they offer, visit SoluxeSolar.com!

(Image source: Fastcompany.com)

Countywide California Solar Program Incentives Will Be Greater Than State

April11, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News, Solar Living

Sullivan Solar Power, the California-based company that’s already installed $8 million watts of solar power systems throughout the southern part of the state, recently announced a new initiative: the San Diego Solar Program. Centered in the city recently named #1 in the state for solar rooftops, the countywide program will make it possible for eligible residents to install solar panels at no upfront cost, plus give them a significant cash incentive—one that’s even greater than incentives currently offered by the state.

“San Diego’s Solar Program is designed in a manner that financially encourages the entire community to go solar,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power. “The goal is to shift San Diego’s dependence from nuclear power and imported fossil fuels to renewable resources and show the rest of the nation that it can be done.”

Modeled after the state’s program, the San Diego Solar Program will give the greatest incentives to the most early adopters: those who get in on the first phase will get $2,500, but that amount will reduce as more and more sign-ups come in, up until the closing time of 5 p.m. on December 31, 2012. A total of 500 residences can benefit from the solar program.

“With the financing options that we have available today, homeowners can go solar for $0 out-of-pocket, save money every month and then with the San Diego Solar Program, we are going to send them a check,” Sullivan said. “We are paying people to go solar with this program. How is that for an economic stimulus plan?”

San Diego homeowners can learn more about the program at a luncheon scheduled for Saturday, May 12, at 11 a.m. at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park (1439 El Prado). There is also additional info available at SanDiegoSolarProgram.org or by calling 1-800-SULLIVAN.

Ecobuild: The future of sustainable development?

March22, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News, Solar Living

ecobuildEcobuild, known throughout the world as the biggest event focusing on sustainable development, design and construction, continues to expand. Not only did it recently hold a successful 2012 event, Tuesday through Thursday, March 20 to 22, in London, but it also has plans to be in India next spring. The launch of Ecobuild India is set to take place Tuesday through Thursday, April 16 to 18, 2013, at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai.

“The launch event will distil the key components of Ecobuild in the UK to deliver a showcase of the most impressive sustainable construction projects from across India and the world, the latest and most innovative products, and a conference programme that will tackle the most pressing concerns and the biggest challenges facing the region,” said James Blue, Ecobuild’s Portfolio Director, in a recent press release.

Each annual Ecobuild brings a wide range of sustainable professionals, including architects, designers, developers, product manufacturers and other stakeholders, who meet together to debate and connect on issues of the environment.

Planning to hold next year’s event in India reflects the growth in construction investment the country has experienced–with current strong demand for residential, commercial and industrial construction work. What’s more, India’s government has made it a top priority to boost the nation’s infrastructure, already investing $500 billion and planning to put a further $1 trillion in future work. Green building is on the rise there, too–making up $15 billion of total construction and expected to be $39 billion by 2015.

Sanjeev Khaira, Managing Director of UBM India, details: “Sustainably developing an infrastructure to support [our] vast, youthful and vibrant population is high on the agenda in India right now. We see this as the ideal time to work with our UK colleagues to launch an Indian edition of the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to the future of sustainable building design, construction and the built environment.”

To learn more about Ecobuild, visit Ecobuild.co.uk.

U.S. Military Discovers Cost Savings With New Energy Sources

February14, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News

us military solar savingsRecent research shows that the U.S. Military has a lot to gain through solar energy—as much as 7000 megawatts (MW) of solar power, or the equivalent output of seven nuclear power plants, through solar installations on four California military bases. A study released earlier this month showed that solar development in compatible areas could produce more than 30 times the electricity currently consumed by the California bases.

“The Department of Defense is seeking to develop solar, wind, geothermal and other distributed energy sources on its bases both to reduce their $4 billion-a-year energy bill and to make them less dependent on the commercial electricity grid,” said a recent press release about the study. “Such on-site energy generation, together with energy storage and so-called smart-microgrid technology, would allow a military base to maintain its critical operations ‘off-grid’ for weeks or months if the grid is disrupted.”

The bases in question include Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin, China Lake and Twentynine Palms, and the combined acreage to be developed into solar power plants includes some 37,873 acres of land. The DoD hopes that through installations of solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative energy sources at these locations, it will be able to reduce costs enough to make the bases more self-supporting.

“On-site energy generation, together with energy storage and smart-microgrid technology,” writes Cheryl Kaften of PV Magazine, “would enable a military base to maintain its critical operations ‘off-grid’ for weeks or months, if the grid is disrupted.”

This is not the only solar push made by the U.S. military as of late: There’s also the upcoming launch of a new military-grade snap-on solar panel system, one which will add solar technology to golf carts and electric cars,

“As conceived by PowerFilm, the new solar panel doesn’t fully replace conventional power for charging up a golf cart battery,” writes Tina Casey at TriplePundit, “but it does help reduce battery charging costs, improve battery life, and extend the range of the vehicle.”

At Soluxe Solar, we’re always glad to hear about moves towards increased solar power, particularly when it involves major forces like the military, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing solar power benefit these California bases. For more information about the DoD’s study, see this recent press release.

U.S. Bancorp Putting $440M into Sustainable Energy Projects in 2012

February8, 2012 by Shannalee in Financial News

Demonstrating the continued growth occurring in the energy market, the fifth largest commercial bank in America, U.S. Bancorp (USB), recently announced its 2012 plans to invest $440 million in U.S. renewable energy projects.

Now is an excellent time to make such investment, says Van’t Hof, director of renewable energy investments at USB. With U.S. utility electric rates rising and the costs of solar panel installations and wind turbines dropping, eco-friendly investments in wind and solar projects are seen as low risk and reliable, he says.

In addition to its 2012 plans, the bank has already invested as much as $680 million in renewable energy projects since 2008, with most of that happening in 2011, including a $50 million project involving a group of solar power systems in California and Massachusetts. The bank also made its largest financing commitment last May to SunRun, supporting the purchase of $200 million of residential solar systems, according to Sustainable Business. While there’s no longer a government tax credit providing cash for upcoming projects, USB will nonetheless benefit from the 30 percent tax equity program.

“Despite all the skepticism around Solyndra, Evergreen and a lot of legislative uncertainty, our financial institution is taking a very strong position [in renewable energy] and feel this is an excellent asset class,” said Van’t Hof.

At Soluxe Solar, we love hearing about developments like this one, where major financial players demonstrate an awareness of the value of renewable and sustainable energy projects. We’ll be looking forward to seeing how this investment looks over the coming year—as well as who else follows USB’s example!

Why Go Solar? It’s All about the Bottom Line.

January16, 2012 by Jeff in Financial News

Green BottomlineMany people today don’t realize that solar energy does more than help the planet—it helps your pocketbook. Exceptionally cost-effective over the long haul, solar energy draws on the natural power of the sun to generate energy for a home or building, typically through the addition of roof panels that can harness the power.
Consider these facts:

Solar panels lower energy costs.
Solar panels require an upfront investment that electricity does not; however, over time, those panels pay for themselves through significant energy savings. Not only does solar energy cost less than electricity, but it provides stability in a world where energy and gas rates are continually rising.
It was financial savings that recently prompted an Oregon church, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, to install solar roof panels, donated by two parishioners.
“At a minimum, [because of these panels,] the church’s annual PGE energy bill will be reduced by approximately 25 percent, or $2,500 per year,” Sue Minten, the church’s business manager, said.
Likewise, as a response to high energy costs, a school board in California is planning to invest $6.2 million in solar panels, a decision expected to save the district close to half a million dollars in the first year alone. According to the district’s superintendent Rami Muth, this solar project will mean future stability in the midst of changing budgets.

Solar panels last for decades.
Solar panels can last for as long as thirty years, throughout harsh weather conditions and amidst various changes in environment. Over that amount of time, the generated energy they create more than makes up for the initial investment. For that reason, more and more corporations are adding solar energy panels to buildings.
Take IKEA, for example, which recently announced plans to install new panels on five of its US locations, extending its solar presence to nearly 85% in America. According to Solar Novus Today, “This investment by IKEA reinforces the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology.”

Solar panels may qualify you for various incentives.
Various tax credits, electricity buy-back programs and other incentives are available to reward solar energy use. Within each state, particular programs exist, whether sponsored by the government or private organizations—simply research your location’s credits and see if you can qualify.
What’s more, in some of the sunniest areas of the country, solar panels may actually yield so much energy that you’re able to sell the excess to an electric company for a profit. In Georgia, for example, there’s a buyback program available with the state’s largest utility company, Georgia Power, which allows eligible individuals to sell excess electricity to that company.
With solar panels, individuals and businesses have an opportunity to benefit both the planet and their own bottom line. To learn more about how solar energy can give you financial benefits, contact us at Soluxe Solar!

 

2012 Will Be Record-Breaking Year for Cleantech Ventures

January12, 2012 by Jeff in Financial News

2012 could be a record-setting investment year for cleantech ventures, at least according to US-based research company The Cleantech Group. In 2011, the company reported that worldwide clean technology venture and corporate investments grew by 13% to a whopping $8.99 billion, with cleantech mergers and acquisitions totaling 391 deals and $41.2 billion.

While 2011 has been a difficult year for cleantech and venture capital, our 2011 numbers show surging interest in cleantech from global enterprises,” said Sheeraz Haji, CEO of Cleantech Group.  “Despite some of the well-publicized headwinds, venture capitalists continue to invest in cleantech. Based on our historical data, we believe 2012 will be an all-time record year for global cleantech investments.”

Just a few weeks into 2012, there’s reason to believe Haji is exactly right: already there have been announcements of a new $270 million healthcare and sustainability fund from Massachusetts-based Flagship Ventures; a new £95m fund from Scottish Equity Partners, which combines nine of SSE’s cleantech ventures, with five more to follow; and a total $18.7 million of a proposed $22 million already raised by California-based AQT Solar.

“I don’t think the level of [cleantech] activity has gone down,” Flagship managing partner Noubar Afeyan told Boston.com. “I think that the level of noise has gone down. There was a time in cleantech when people were just spraying money around indiscriminately. What we’ve seen is that cleantech has turned out to be more like biotech. You need patient, flexible execution to generate reasonable companies.”

This kind of news is exciting for the world of cleantech, particularly for solar energy—and at Soluxe Solar, we’re always excited to hear about ways solar energy can spread and grow. Here’s to 2012!