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Sol Systems Offers New SREC Contract. Meet Sol Combo

1024px-Jigsaw_puzzle_01_by_Scouten

Sol Systems offers four SREC monetization options: Sol Upfront, Sol Brokerage, Sol Annuity, and now, Sol Combo.

Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) are a confusing, yet critical, piece of solar finance for solar energy system owners and installers alike. To solve for this, Sol Systems offers four SREC monetization options: Sol Upfront, Sol Brokerage, Sol Annuity, and now, Sol Combo.

For many customers, deciding how to handle the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) generated by their exciting new rooftop power plant can be tricky. Are they the kind of person who will lock in a price for the long term, saving themselves time and energy and adding greater certainty to their financial planning? If so, Sol Annuity is the best option.

Another type of customer is one who likes to play the volatile spot market and take some risks for the chance of scoring a higher short-term return. If so, Sol Brokerage is the best option.

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The Megawatt Block Program: Setting New York Solar Up for Success

Research support provided by Eric Lustgarten.

With this continuing initiative, solar solar should remain a crucial part of the Empire State’s energy portfolio.

With this continuing initiative, solar should remain a crucial part of the Empire State’s energy portfolio.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is getting closer to solidifying the next iteration of its solar incentive program with the creation of the Megawatt Block. Perhaps befitting what may be one of the last major new cash incentive programs for solar, it could be one of the best; as proposed, the Megawatt Block incorporates a number of “best practices” for incentive design that should poise the Empire State for strong, steady solar growth.

The current version of the Megawatt Block program awards incentives for solar projects on a per Watt basis. It divides market sectors into residential PV (up to 25kW), small PV (non-residential up to 200kW), and large non-residential PV (over 200kW).  The final framework for projects over 200kW should be in place by mid-November, and the program is expected to open in late Q1 in 2015 on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Massachusetts Updates 2016 Managed Growth Allocation, Developers Still on Edge

Massachusetts solar developers breathed a sigh of relief after last week’s announcement.

Some developers of 650kW+ solar projects may get their projects built after all.

Some developers of 650kW+ solar projects may get their projects built after all.

After the initial August 26th announcement that the 2016 Managed Growth Capacity Block would be 0MW, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) opened a public comment period.  As expected, solar stakeholders expressed their concern over the 2016 allocation, citing that the DOER had projected overly ambitious growth in Market Sectors A-C. In response to these comments, DOER adjusted the 2016 Managed Growth Capacity Block allocation from 0MW to 20MW .

What is Managed Growth in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts SREC-II Program, initiated in April, creates differentiated financial incentives for each market sector (“SREC Factor”) to level the playing field. This program makes smaller solar projects more competitive compared to larger ones by ideally giving financial preference to residential and rooftop projects (a higher SREC Factor close to 1.0) and providing less support for larger projects (ground mount, landfill or brownfield projects less than 650kW.) Previously, this program allocated 26MW and 81MW for the Managed Growth sector in 2014 and 2015 respectively.  As the legislation mandates, the reconsideration and final decision of the 2016 Managed Growth Capacity Block came from the following formula:

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Beyond the Meter: Remote Solar on the Horizon?

A Less-Than-Totally-Addressable Market

Commercial solar can be an extremely difficult, uphill sell. Not only must a salesperson overcome traditional customer barriers of ignorance, indifference, or fear, with a product that can seem formidably technical, but they have to do so in what is to date an inordinately small addressable market. Consider a Venn diagram, but one where you must intersect a highly creditworthy client, with a large-enough-to-bother roof, such roof being fairly new (but not covered with mechanical equipment), with some spare structural capacity; generally, commercial instead of industrial electricity rates, low shading, a PPA-friendly state, and one of the markets that makes sense for solar this quarter. In considering all of this, you’ve no longer got a Venn diagram; you’ve got something else entirely.

Remote solar could allow for greater utilization of ideal project sites and a larger set of potential customers reaping the benefits.

It’s part of the reason solar developers like to press their nose against the glass as their plane comes in over the big flat roofs on the warehouses next to the airport and dream of what might be.

Of course we should pursue such low hanging fruit where we can find it – and keep in mind that some finance providers are more innovative on host credit than others.

However, there are only so many big retailers and Fortune 500 distribution centers out there. Great credit often comes with truly challenging host sites and vice versa.  Further, we’ve seen other issues with over-concentration.  In certain substations serving Southern New Jersey office parks, we’ve seen interconnection study results that look like all Three Stooges trying to fit through a door at the same time.

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New York Commits Another $1 Billion to Solar. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Will New York join Massachusetts and California as an enduring solar state?

Last Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an additional $1 billion in funding for the NY-Sun initiative, making good on his promise to extend the program through 2023. The funding announcement includes an overhaul of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) current incentive program, previously doled out through Program Opportunity Notices (PONs) with varying availability for different solar project sizes and geographies. The new program will take effect June 1st.

With this new initiative, solar should remain a crucial part of the Empire State’s energy portfolio

New York Solar Incentives Explained

The NY-Sun initiative, founded in 2011, coordinates solar programs between the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA, now PSEG Long Island), the New York Power Authority (NYPA), and NYSERDA. The new program, called “Megawatt Block”, will break out MW capacity allocations to specific regions of the state, and then further break down target capacities in each block. Solar incentives in New York will be awarded on a per watt basis for residential PV (up to 25 kW), small PV (non-residential up to 200 kW), and large PV (over 200 kW). Similar to the popular California Solar Initiative rebates, prices will step down as capacity blocks in each region and sector are filled, allowing the market to grow at a steady pace and eventually stand on its own. If the geographic preference follows the earlier program, we can expect to see preference given to areas downstate near New York City.

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Sol Systems Closes Financing for 940 kW Solar Project in New Mexico, Launches Financing Partnership with Affordable Solar

Sol Systems' new partnership with Affordable Solar will provide financing solutions for Affordable Solar's national installer network.

Sol Systems’ new partnership with Affordable Solar will provide financing solutions for Affordable Solar’s national installer network.

Sol Systems is pleased to announce the financial closing of a 940 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The project was the second deal that Sol Systems financed on behalf of New Mexico-based developer, Affordable Solar. Sol Systems also closed an 806 kW Affordable Solar project in the fall of 2013.

This recent project closing coincides with a new partnership that Sol Systems and Affordable Solar launched to streamline financing for distributed solar energy projects. Through the partnership, Sol Systems will work closely with Affordable Solar and their national installer network to unearth, provide due diligence, and refine projects before securing financing for each deal opportunity. The partnership will provide project development and analysis tools for Affordable’s installer network, while opening up a broad range of finance options for the projects.

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Sol Systems Closes 1.2 MW Transaction for Maryland Nonprofit, Leveraging Solar Financing & SREC Expertise

Financing for the construction of the 1.2 MW project was handled between Sol Systems and Building Energy.

Sol Systems recently financed a 1.2 MW solar project in Maryland.

Sol Systems has successfully financed a 1.2 MW solar project in partnership with its investor client, Washington Gas Energy Systems, a subsidiary of WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL), which will own and operate the system. Located at Presbyterian Senior Living Services, a non-profit located in Glen Arm, Maryland, the system will provide electricity under a long-term Power Purchase agreement. Financing for the construction of the project was handled between Sol Systems and Building Energy. Washington Gas Energy Systems will own and operate the system.

To fast-track the financing for the commercial-scale project, Sol Systems engaged its network of institutional investors, structured the transaction, and secured a multi-year solar renewable energy credit (SREC) contract, critical to financing the deal.  Maryland SREC compliance buyers do not typically execute SREC contracts prior to a project’s operation date. However, Sol Systems was able to leverage its reputation as the oldest and largest SREC aggregator in the nation to secure a four-year fixed price contract.

“Early before entering into the U.S. market, we recognized the value of having a solid and reliable financing partner to help us navigate the complexities of U.S. solar market. An experienced partner like Sol Systems has provided us with the support we needed to finance our first deal in the United States,” said Andrea Braccialarghe, Managing Director America at Building Energy.

Since 2008, Sol Systems has facilitated financing for 69 MW of solar projects throughout the country, 8 MW of which are located in Maryland. In addition to commercial project financing and SREC aggregation, Sol Systems is tackling tax equity, one of the solar industry’s biggest financing limitations.

“Sol Systems is proud to have helped Building Energy succeed with their first U.S. solar project,” said George Ashton, CFO of Sol Systems. “This effort is an example of how our commercial financing solutions and SREC services can work in tandem to increase deal velocity, accelerate the tempo of project development, and bring solar to non-profits like Presbyterian Senior Living Services.”

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Employee Spotlight: Andrew Gilligan

At Sol Systems, we realize that our work is a reflection of who we are as individuals, and our success is a direct result of all the different personalities, passions, and talents that your employees bring to the table. Our team has expanded significantly in the last few years, and we are proud to employ some of the brightest talent in the renewable energy industry. On this employee highlight we have Andrew Gilligan, Senior Associate at Sol Systems:

This month’s employee spotlight features Andrew Gilligan from our investor advisory services team.

This month’s employee spotlight features Andrew Gilligan from our investor advisory services team.

What is your current position at Sol Systems?

I am a Senior Associate and help to lead our Investor Advisory Group. As part of this team, I assist renewable energy investors across the United States to successfully deploy capital into solar projects.

How has Sol Systems changed since you first started at the firm?

Since I started with Sol Systems in early 2011, the firm has undergone a lot of changes. Back then, we were a small start-up company only offering SREC solutions. Today, we have evolved to become a financial services firm that can help with any part of the capital stock for projects in all relevant US solar markets.

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Sol Systems Offers the Fast Road for Financing Commercial Solar, Moves Quickly to Secure Investor Funds for 806 kW in New Mexico

Sol Systems has facilitated financing for an 806 kW solar portfolio in Deming, New Mexico, consisting of three separate solar arrays sized 84 kW, 151 kW, and 571 kW. The recent portfolio closing enhances Sol Systems’ track record of financing mid-sized distributed generation solar projects.  Together, the three photovoltaic arrays will provide power for three facilities in the City of Deming’s water system.

The project developer, New Mexico-based Affordable Solar, approached Sol Systems to arrange project financing.  The Sol Systems team swiftly secured an investor who executed quickly and helped the developer to secure financing in only two weeks.

Sol Systems recently secured investor funds for an 806 kW portfolio in New Mexico.

Sol Systems recently secured investor funds for an 806 kW portfolio in New Mexico.

“The team at Sol Systems worked diligently and efficiently to secure capital and move the project forward in a matter of weeks,” said Ryan Centerwall, General Manager of Affordable Solar. “Their team was very accommodating to our needs, and we were impressed with the competitive financing options that they presented to us.”

“At Sol Systems, we pride ourselves in securing the most optimal path to project financing through a combination of pricing, velocity, and of course execution ability, ” said Andrew Gilligan, who helps lead Sol Systems’ investor advisory team. “We were glad we could move quickly to meet Affordable Solar’s deadline and help them succeed in developing these projects.”

This portfolio marks another success in a hot summer for the Sol Systems team. In August, Sol Systems was ranked #91 on Inc. 500’s prestigious list of the fastest growing companies in the U.S., and #3 in the solar industry. Since June, the solar finance firm has secured financing for 10 commercial-scale projects in Hawaii, California, Indiana, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and now, New Mexico. With 10 additional projects currently at term sheet, Sol Systems expects several more project closings this fall. Sol Systems also estimates that it will place around $40 million in tax equity into the solar industry in 2013 through its tax structured finance group.

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Sol Systems featured on AOL Energy!

Sol Systems’ Andrew Gilligan was featured in AOL Energy! Check out the article below.

Hope Shines Through Bankruptcy Clouds for US Solar Sector

A spate of bankruptcies in US solar manufacturers is not a sign of imminent industry collapse, but the inevitable result of competition in a new and evolving market, according to industry representatives.
Solar manufacturer Solyndra announced its intention to file for bankruptcy on the final day of August, following bankruptcy filings by Evergreen Solar on August 15 and SpectraWatt on August 19. The three firms’ failures prompted a flurry of commentary about the challenges facing US solar manufacturing, and prospects for the sector’s survival.
But solar industry representatives suggest that this is just part of the inevitable weeding out of firms that are unable to compete as the market landscape changes. Solyndra’s bankruptcy was “an anomaly…That’s one of the gazillion technologies out there for solar. Some are going to make it, and some aren’t,” founder of American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Mark Riedy told AOL Energy at the Georgetown University Energy and Cleantech conference on September 2, 2011.

All Eyes East

Competition has intensified for solar panel manufacturers as cheaper Chinese modules have become more widely available. Manufacturing costs are lower in China, due in large part to relatively cheap labor and low-cost loans from China’s state-dominated banking system.

“It’s not like they’re making huge profits either, but they can probably take on more”, said Andrew Gilligan, an associate with solar finance firm Sol Systems.

Another factor that has driven down costs is a reduction of feed-in tariffs in some European countries, according to Gilligan.

“The demand they thought was going to be there in Europe for solar has drastically been reduced in 2011,” he said.

Solar manufacturer and project developer SunPower‘s investments in Italy were hit when the government reduced feed-in tariffs in response to debt crisis, according to project development analyst Brian Bailey.

“SunPower basically lost a major market, and we’ve been moving modules to other markets and trying to fill the gap,” Bailey said at the conference.  Sol Systems' Andrew Gilligan was featured in AOL Energy! Check out the article below.

The Problem With Policy

SunPower’s experience in Italy also highlights the importance of policy risk in the solar industry, as firms are still working towards lower costs that would allow them to compete without government incentives.

Intensified cost competition has not driven every player out of the market. Integrated firms like SunPower and Q-Cells control solar power developments from manufacturing to project implementation, and are less sensitive to manufacturing margins.
The Money Still Flows

And SunPower and Q-Cells have both managed to attract capital, despite uncertain economic conditions.
 

Q-Cells is employing innovative means of raising project funds, such as going through a traditional project finance route but “wrapping” it in an insurance policy, according to director of new market development Nick Chaset. A wrap provides a guarantee against potential losses.

“We’ll provide a parental guarantee as a publicly traded company or we’ll go through a third party like [insurance company] Zurich,” Chaset said.

SunPower is continuing to fund projects using power purchase agreements, as well as lease financing, according to Bailey. The company’s creditworthiness benefits from French oil major Total‘s decision, announced in April, to buy 60% of the solar firm’s shares and provide $1 billion in credit support over five years.

“We have one of the strongest balance sheets in the world behind us”, Bailey said.

And the companies’ solid track records give them a leg up over less established firms.

“Big investment banks, financial institutions aren’t interested in taking risks on a new developer,” said Gilligan.

Two Certainties: Natural Gas And Taxes

But the US solar industry may face additional challenges in the coming years. One of the primary drivers behind a recent boom in solar projects is the option for solar developers to receive a 30% investment tax credit in the form of a cash grant, according to Gilligan. He does not expect the cash grant option to be renewed next year, which would force solar project developers to seek tax equity financing, which may not be as readily available.

And if the price of US natural gas fails to rise, it could act as a barrier to development of all renewable fuel generation sources.

“As long as this natural gas price stays around $4…it’s so cheap that it’s not going to be a good financial decision to build big wind and solar farms,” Gilligan said.

But Riedy argues that there are US solar manufacturers with the potential to survive the culling process by advancing solar technologies and achieving the necessary cost reductions.
“There’s a lot of guys that have really good stories to tell in the solar space and they’re up, they’ve got their projects going, they’re manufacturing panels, the panels are starting to compete with the Chinese,” Riedy said.
Ultimately, any firm that can keep its costs down and provide a reliable product may outlast its competitors.
“Cost is always the key driver,” said Booz Allen Hamilton energy associate David Brown.

Sol Systems Issues Call for Solar Projects – New Project Finance Platform Now Has $400 Million in Available Funding

Sol Systems Issues Call for Solar Projects – New Project Finance Platform Now Has $400 Million in Available Funding

Washington, DC: September 14, 2011 – Less than two weeks after launch, Sol Systems is proud to announce that its new solar finance platform, SolMarket, has increased from $350 million in available investment dollars to $400 million.  In addition, reception by solar installers and developers across the country has been overwhelmingly positive.  SolMarket’s network now includes over 180 companies and 300 users.

SolMarket is a financing platform that will catalyze investment in solar energy projects nationwide by transforming how solar projects are financed.  SolMarket provides investors and developers with the tools they need to efficiently originate, evaluate, finance, and construct renewable energy projects.  It provides a standardized origination platform, a document library, modeling software, and a standardized document suite.  SolMarket will also offer developers group purchase discounts for solar modules and other equipment.  There are no costs for developers to participate in SolMarket.

“We talk to hundreds of solar developers about prospective commercial and utility-scale projects, and unfortunately, many of these solar projects are never built due to an inability to efficiently locate financing,” said Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems.  “We have created SolMarket to help drive efficiencies into the solar market and connect investors and developers effectively.  SolMarket will reduce the cost of financing transactions and enhance the tempo of solar project development.”

SolMarket is currently seeking projects ranging from 50 kW to multi-megawatts in size.  Solar developers are encouraged to submit their projects prior to September 30th, when investors will get their first look at projects.  Projects entered prior to this date increase their visibility and the likelihood of getting included in the investors’ 2011 portfolios.

Sol Systems invites interested solar developers to attend a SolMarket webinar, hosted every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the month of September at 2 pm EST.  For more information, please email info@solmarket.com or visit www.solmarket.com.

About Sol Systems

SolMarket is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sol SystemsSol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar finance firm, and the largest solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator in the nation, with over 2,300 customers and over 20 MW of solar capacity under management.  Through its SREC offerings, it has promoted the development of the solar market by providing long-term financing options for SRECs, facilitating over $100 million in solar development.

Contact:

Ms. Sudha Gollapudi, Director of Strategic Partnerships

info@solmarket.com

888-765-1115 x1

Sol Systems Issues Call for Solar Projects – Launches Project Finance Platform with $350 Million in Available Funding

Washington, DC: August 31, 2011 - Sol Systems today announced the launch of SolMarket, a new financing platform that will catalyze investment in solar energy projects nationwide by transforming how solar projects are financed.  SolMarket launches with over $350 million of committed partner funds, actively seeking solar projects in need of financing.

SolMarket provides investors and developers with the tools they need to efficiently originate, evaluate, finance, and construct renewable energy projects.  It provides a standardized origination platform, a document library, modeling software, and a standardized document suite.  SolMarket will also offer developers group purchase discounts for solar modules and other equipment.  There are no costs for developers to participate in SolMarket.

“We talk to hundreds of solar developers about prospective commercial and utility-scale projects, and unfortunately, many of these solar projects are never built due to an inability to efficiently locate financing,” said Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems.  “We have created SolMarket to help drive efficiencies into the solar market and connect investors and developers effectively.  SolMarket will reduce the cost of financing transactions and enhance the tempo of solar project development.”

SolMarket has already attracted funding from a number of investors and is seeking projects ranging from 50 kW to multi-megawatts in size.  Solar developers are encouraged to submit their projects prior to September 30th because investors are quickly building out their portfolios for 2011.

Sol Systems invites interested solar developers to attend a SolMarket webinar on Thursday, September 1st, Friday, September 2nd, or Tuesday, September 6th at 11 am EST.  For more information, please email info@solmarket.com or visit www.solmarket.com.

About Sol Systems

SolMarket is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sol Systems.  Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar finance firm, and the largest solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator in the nation, with over 2,300 customers and over 20 MW of solar capacity under management.  Through its SREC offerings, it has promoted the development of the solar market by providing long-term financing options for SRECs, facilitating over $100 million in solar development.

Contact:

Ms. Sudha Gollapudi, Director of Strategic Partnerships

info@solmarket.com

888-765-1115 x1

Magic and Sunrays in the Air

In a neighborhood where painting your door a different color requires approval from a presidentially appointed commission, Georgetown Energy is aiming to permanently change the view of dozens of houses – from the sky.

Georgetown Energy, a student consultancy devoted to helping residents convert to solar electricity, is heading a monumental solar project that involves turning 43 quintessential student townhouse residences to solar electricity in the midst of Washington DC’s historic Georgetown district. Although it is a long-term project to be enjoyed by the generations after many of the current members of the group have graduated, Georgetown Energy students believe that the rewards of such an innovative project are well worth the effort.

What magic surrounding solar coaxed students to become involved so profoundly?  First, there is a substantial payback for the investment. In a solar lease contract signed between Georgetown University, which owns the student townhouses, and Solar City, a leading national solar installation company, adding 96.6 kW of solar capacity to 43 townhouses will require an initial investment of about $164,000, much less than if the University were to purchase the solar panels. Although Georgetown Energy has partnered with SolarCity for this project and used its solar lease scheme as a model, the project will be offered to various installers at its final stages. In the innovative solar lease scheme, the University will “lease” the roof of each townhouse to the installer, which will design, own, and operate a solar photovoltaic system on each townhouse.  The installer will then sell the electricity produced from each solar project to the residents of the townhouse at a lower price than the traditional competing utility. Savings increase every year and over the 20 years duration of the solar lease contract, students would save a total of $458,856 in their electricity cost. After the contract is over, the student body can decide whether to buy the panels at a low price.

Indeed, another charming aspect of the proposal is that everything is student-owned. Originating from the need to allocate a 3.4 million dollar defunct student endowment, the solar investment will take up only a portion of the available fund and coexist with other student proposals as well as generate profit. Ideally, Georgetown Energy sees the proceeds creating a fund for related projects to further environmental awareness and energy studies on campus.

Is there anything else in it for the university, the students, and the DC area? Sol Systems, a strong force in the fight for better solar incentives in DC, believes so. Not only is being involved in such a movement ideal preparation for a career in renewable energy (two recent graduates and former members of Georgetown Energy actually work at Sol Systems), but there is much potential for the greater DC area too. Of course, cleaner air for the district tops the list. It may even attract more students interested in environmental and energy issues and demonstrate the feasibility of clean energy investments, creating a virtuous cycle of environmental awareness and action in the university community. Perhaps the project may even set an example of a successful clean energy investment that some students may follow individually in the future. Lastly, it is a modern display of service to the community, the crux of the founding Jesuit ideals of Georgetown University.

What stage is the project at right now? In April 2011, a student commission voted in support of the proposal. Now Georgetown Energy students are working with University officials on the details. These include contractual issues, billing mechanisms, pricing, and structural and electrical issues with the houses. The Georgetown Energy students are learning some concrete skills needed for evaluating any type of construction investment. The work done from June-August 2011 will culminate in a final recommendation to be handed to the University on September 1st after which Georgetown Energy students will have to persuade the rest of the student body off their feet for a concluding student referendum and choose from final proposals from competing vendors and permitting.  If all goes well, the battle will be won one year from today. The panels will be constructed in Fall 2012 and convert ordinary sunrays to a unique opportunity for revenue and intellectual growth – truly magic!

Kids Learn about Solar Energy Through Show-and-Tell

Sol Systems’ valued customer, Phil Hostetter, recently had an interesting version of show-and-tell at his home in Sterling, Virginia, with twelve 4th and 5th graders from Guilford Elementary School. Phil, who has a 4.05 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system, gave a tour of his eco-friendly home, which also has a hybrid trombe wall and a solar hot water system . Phil and his wife Stephanie became interested in solar energy during the 1980’s and decided to build a passive solar home, with the idea that it would go solar electric as soon as possible. Although the house was completed in 1986, their initial plans to add PV panels to their home were delayed until 2009. The financial help from tax credits and the current SREC benefits he receives greatly contributed to the execution of the project.

When Phil heard about the environmental club at nearby Guilford Elementary School, he conceived the idea of the show-and-tell as a way to share his enthusiasm for solar and other green technologies and to inspire young students to take an interest in environment issues. The environmental club members had been learning about sustainable living for quite some time. Phil briefly described the process of the system to them but remarks, “The kids definitely knew a lot. They knew how it worked and could recognize many features of the system.” The club practices composting and cultivates a vegetable garden at the school. (Phil and Stephanie donated vegetable and flower seedlings from their greenhouse.) Club members also sell some of the harvest to raise money for the school and are thinking of doing some sort of solar installation in the near future.

Phil received numerous thank you notes and illustrations of his house. “We got a great response from the tour. I’m pleased they took the time to write thank you notes.” We at Sol Systems enjoyed the letters and wanted to share with our other customers. It is without a doubt important to educate the youth of the importance of sustainable living with a limited number of resources in the world. We hope this article and the letters posted below inspire our other customers to host similar events for local school children. Thank you, Phil, for sharing your story, and for continuing to spread the knowledge!

Thank you notes from students at Guilford Elementary School

Financing Residential Solar

Michael Leibreich, chairman of Bloomberg Finance’s Research Group on Energy Finance, recently stated that he believes the cost of developing a solar power project will be cut in half in the next decade. These cost reductions will pave the way for utility scale solar and they will also help make solar a viable option for residential solar.

Residential solar installations will remain a key part of the solar industry’s remarkable growth, and the distributed nature of these systems represents some of the most unique and most advantageous aspects of solar technology; however, reductions in technology costs are not enough to make solar affordable for everyone. Luckily, today, a homeowner has more options than ever to help finance the installation of a solar energy system.

The most basic way is to pay for the system out of pocket. This approach leads to the highest rate of return — assuming the homeowner can take full advantage of the federal investment tax credit/grant, state incentives, and the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits or SRECs. However, solar PV systems still pose a high initial cost, and many residents do not have the ability to pay for the system completely out of pocket.

A subset of this option is taking out a loan to pay for the system. Residents can take out home equity loans from their banks or secure low-interest loans to cover the system cost from their installers. (In D.C., homeowners have received access to zero-interest loans for the first year through their solar installer.) This approach also allows the homeowner access to all the economic incentives for going solar, which along with energy savings, can be used to repay the loan in a very reasonable period of time.

Two other options that do not require the homeowner to fund the entire cost of the installation would be to (1) lease the system or (2) enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Although these structures are now common among commercial solar installations, these financing structures are becoming more popular with homeowners in the past two years.

While the nuances of leasing structures often differ, the customer is basically leasing the solar energy system just like someone leases a car. This approach allows the customer to reduce energy bills without the high initial cost of going solar. However, in leasing a system, the homeowner would not own the system; therefore, they would not receive the federal tax incentives or state rebates – and in most cases they would not be able to take advantage of the economic incentives like selling SRECs.

Finally, a Power Purchase Agreement allows a homeowner to purchase electricity from a system located on their roof at a reduced rate. This means the homeowner will experience savings on their energy bills without large upfront costs. However, just like in leasing the system, the customer will not own the system, be able to take advantage of SRECs, or the federal and state incentives. In effect, they have not “invested” in a solar energy system, but they will still reap financial benefits because they’ve created a hedge against rising utility costs.

It can be a difficult decision for homeowners when selecting which financing option to use. A lot will depend on how the homeowner feels about the high upfront cost associated with owning a PV system. However, if the customer can afford the initial capital, then purchasing the system will provide them with a return on investment over the lifetime of the system.

By owning a solar energy system, the homeowner will be able to monetize all available incentives and also reap the value of producing clean electricity through the selling of SRECs. SRECs are valuable because several states have solar-carve outs in their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that require energy suppliers to procure a certain percentage of their electricity from solar or pay a steep Alternative Compliance Fee (ACP).

At Sol Systems, we offer 1, 3, 5, and even 10-year agreements for monetizing the SRECs of a system depending on the state. Fixed cost agreements such as Sol Annuity allow customers to confidently know their cash flow due to SRECs and subsequently calculate their payback period more accurately.

It is important for these financing options to remain economical choices as residential solar continues to grow. Furthermore, it is important homeowners take their time and fully understand the advantages and disadvantages before choosing how to finance their solar system.

Counterintuitive Energy Subsidies

One of the most common arguments against renewable energy resources such as wind and solar is that they are not cost-competitive compared to traditional fossil fuels. Accordingly, government officials, business leaders, and taxpayers are concerned about the billions of dollars that would have to be spent in government funding and subsidies to make renewable energy more cost competitive today. However, when one examines the subsidies that fossil fuels receive annually, as well as their negative externalities, it is harder to argue that renewable energy is “too expensive”.

The majority of industries require support and legislative stability during their infancy, and this is especially true of the energy industry. It should come as no surprise that government funding and subsidies were used to help the coal and oil industries when they were first developing. However, it is unclear why fossil fuels, now a mature industry, received $72.5 billion in U.S. federal subsidies between 2002-2008. To put this in comparison, the solar industry received less than $1 billion in federal subsidies during that same time period, and all renewable energy fields together received $29 billion. If fossil fuels are so much cheaper, why should they receive more than double the amount of federal funding?

Federal subsidies include incentives, tax breaks, loan guarantees and other credits. President Barack Obama made a commitment to support clean energy, and solar subsidies have significantly increased since he took office, highlighted by a 30% Federal Tax Credit or Grant program for solar. Furthermore, Obama has proposed reducing subsidies and tax breaks for oil, natural gas and coal producers in his budget proposal each year. The G20 echoed this rhetoric, proposing in 2009 to begin phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, which was applauded by economists and environmentalists.

Yet nothing has changed. Congress successfully opposed these cuts and reductions, thanks in large part to heavy lobbying from oil, gas, and coal companies. Furthermore, none of the G20 countries have enacted a subsidy-cutting policy.

Even though 80% of Americans agree that Congress should consider reallocating federal subsidies from fossil fuels to solar, and 92% of Americans support pollution-free technology, it appears inevitable that renewable energy will lose out in subsidy fights because of the power of the entrenched fossil fuel industries. Supporters of fossil fuel subsidies point to the fact that oil prices often depend on situations in foreign countries, making the market more volatile and thus they need insulation, but this seems to be a critical disadvantage of the oil industry, not something that should be supported.

At this point, fossil fuel industries have a price advantage over alternative fuel sources because of industry maturity and federal subsidies. If a free market without subsidies existed though, fossil fuels would still be priced inaccurately due to their negative externalities.

An externality is a cost or benefit to a party that did not directly participate in the transaction. For example, fossil fuels’ most significant negative externality is pollution. Fossil fuel energy production is the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with climate change. In basic economics, when a product or service has negative externalities that are not reflected in the cost, it makes sense for governments to levy a tax or charge that reflects the true cost of that action to society. However, under the status quo, levelized cost does not exist for energy sources – and the fossil fuel industry receives billions of dollars in annual subsidies to help reduce their cost.

Federal incentives for the fossil fuel industry are likely to continue, meaning renewable energies must be able to take advantage of other opportunities in order to compete. Several states have recognized a need for state-based intervention and they have helped create a better market for solar deployment through solar “carve-outs” in their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). These carve-outs mandate that electricity suppliers procure a certain percentage of their electricity from solar sources. In effect, this legislation leads to a valuable market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECS.

The ability to sell the benefits of clean solar electricity at reliable prices has prompted an increase in solar deployment in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and the District of Columbia among others, and this market-based solution does not have to rely on federal or state funding.

Looking forward, states should make good use of solar carve-outs in an attempt to level the playing field with the fossil fuel industry. State-created solar requirements and SREC values can help the solar industry get stable funding in its developing years – and eventually solar will stand on its own in the market.

What House Budget Means for Solar

Early on Saturday, February 19th, 2011, the House passed its version of this year’s budget, which was highlighted by $61 billion in cuts from federal programs. The bill will now move to the Senate where there will likely be amendments and eventual compromise before President Obama signs the bill. Nevertheless, it is an interesting time to examine what this budget and drive to reduce the federal deficit means for solar financing and the solar industry in general.

President Obama has made it clear that, although his priority is to trim the federal deficit, he is not willing to sacrifice funding for clean energy research and development. For the 2012 fiscal year, Obama unveiled a $29.5 billion budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE), which includes $3.2 billion for the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)– a 44% increase over the current appropriation. This request includes an 88% increase in funding for the solar EERE program specifically.

The budget passed by the House, however, is more aggressive in its attempts to reduce the federal deficit and would cut billions of dollars from federal energy and environmental programs. In particular, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which invests in early stage and risky projects, would be hit hard. Similarly, the EERE would lose 35% of its budget relative to last year, a stark contrast to the White House’s plans. The budget would also cut funding for several DOE loan guarantee programs.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has characterized these cuts as “disastrous”. Currently, solar developers use the DOE loan guarantee programs to help finance solar projects at low interest rates, and these cuts could halt solar projects around the country. However, the chances of the House budget passing into law in its current form are very slim. Senate Democrats and President Obama will likely push back against dramatic reductions in the DOE loan guarantee program.

Despite the fact that House Republicans are currently proposing cuts to clean energy funding, it is important to highlight that a GOP Congress has historically supported solar. The first tax credits for solar were passed in a 2005 Energy Bill by a Republican Congress and later extended by President George W. Bush.

Both parties see the job growth opportunities in the solar industry. Solar employers expect jobs to increase by 26 percent over the next year, and lawmakers from both parties share concerns over the current U.S. unemployment rate.

It is important to note that no matter what happens with the Federal Budget, there will be states that maintain policies promoting solar deployment and allowing for job growth in the renewable energy industry. For example, more and more states are adopting a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that contains a solar carve-out requiring utilities to procure a certain percentage of their electricity from a solar source. These solar carve-outs create markets for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs. An SREC is a tradable credit that represents all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. SRECs are a market-based mechanism that do not rely of state or federal funding, so SRECs will help system owners finance their solar energy systems regardless of federal cuts to clean energy programs.

The House resolution on the budget, although likely not to pass in its current form, would certainly be detrimental to the health of the solar industry, particularly the reductions in the DOE loan guarantee program. We hope lawmakers will recognize the job growth and economic opportunity that the solar sector represents, instead of seeing it as a way to trim government spending.

Sol Bridge Allows Business Owners to Go Solar with Low Out-of-Pocket Costs

Sol Systems, the oldest and largest solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator in the U.S., recently announced a new financing solution for commercial-size solar energy systems called Sol Bridge. The bridge financing solves a problem that many prospective solar owners face: commercial-sized solar energy systems have high capital costs (typically more than $100,000), and system owners must pay for the system costs several months before they receive their federal and state solar incentives or solar renewable energy credit (SREC) payments. Because most businesses have limited cash and must reserve their capital for business-related expenses and investments, owning a solar energy system is a distant possibility.

Sol Bridge addresses this problem by providing a 90 day cash advance to system owners for the 30% federal tax grant and any applicable state incentives. This option allows business owners to go solar without tying up capital, while still retaining ownership of their system and all the benefits including SREC payments and electricity bill savings.

The cash advance is provided upon system completion and can be assigned to the solar installer, so that the installer reduces the customer’s payment amounts accordingly. Sol Bridge and the corresponding loan fees are due after 90 days, however, the loan fees can be wrapped into the total installation costs and therefore included in the amount that will be refunded upon receipt of the federal grant and state rebates.

In addition, Sol Bridge can be paired with the Sol Upfront SREC payment option which allows system owners to pre-sell the future SRECs to Sol Systems in exchange for a one-time lump-sum payment. When the Sol Bridge and Sol Upfront options are combined, the system owner is responsible for merely 10-30% of the remaining system costs; moreover, the business owner reaps the full benefits of their electricity savings because there is no ongoing solar lease fee or PPA payments.

Please visit the Sol Systems website for more information about Sol Bridge.

About Sol Systems:
Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. With thousands of customers and hundreds of partners throughout the United States, Sol Systems is the largest and oldest SREC aggregator. We provide homeowners, businesses, solar installers, and developers with sophisticated financing solutions that help make solar energy more affordable. Sol Systems also helps energy suppliers and utilities manage and meet their solar RPS requirements efficiently by providing them with access to diverse portfolios of SRECs. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Why Big Solar is not Better Solar

As solar energy systems become a more popular and profitable investment, many small and large scale projects are being developed. The idea of large solar projects may be attractive because of cost advantages due to scale, yet while the technology behind big and small solar projects is similar, some of the characteristics of big solar cancel out the advantages that are unique to solar energy.

Let’s define “big solar” as a photovoltaic (PV) system or a concentrated solar power (CSP) system that feeds energy into the grid as opposed to “small solar” which feeds the direct energy load of a given facility (most commercial facilities require less than 1 MW of power).

First, big solar is inefficient in terms of its land use. Instead of using the millions of acres of rooftop space and small vacant lots across the country, big solar is often built in deserts or remote areas, which could be potential agricultural or construction space, or even wildlife habitat.

Second, big solar requires significant transmission upgrades. Since large solar projects are far away from where electricity is used, long and costly transmission lines must be constructed to connect big solar projects with the grid. It costs approximately $1.5 million per mile for new transmission lines, a substantial cost that removes a lot of the economic advantages associated with large scale projects. Big solar projects will require the U.S. to engage in even more costly infrastructure upgrades over the next few decades; whereas small solar projects actually reduce the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.

Third, big solar does not alleviate grid-congestion. Even if new transmission lines can be financed, the electricity will only add to an already congested transmission and distribution system. Whereas, if small scale solar power is added near the power demand (such as the rooftop of a house or building), then it would not add at all to the congestion of the electrical system (one of the main causes of the 2003 blackout in the Northeast). Grid congestion is becoming even more important as U.S. electrical demand is increasing at a much higher rate than U.S. transmission capacity.

Fourth, big solar wastes a significant amount of energy during transmission. Transmission from a centralized power plant to a user wastes electricity: according to the EIA, line losses accounted for 6.5% of total electricity generation in 2007. Small solar, typically constructed on the roof or within a ¼ mile of the building it powers, has virtually no energy loss due to transmission.

Fifth, big solar has the same security disadvantages of large centralized power plants. In other words, large scale solar is just as susceptible as other power plants to national security threats from hackers or terrorist groups.

Now that solar technology is becoming more affordable on a residential and commercial scale, there is the potential to dramatically increase the prevalence of distributed generation power systems. Achieving this would insulate the U.S. against its current dependence on large scale power plants and an outdated electrical grid’s transmission ability. Yet, despite the relative disadvantages of large solar power plants, big solar and small solar often compete for solar incentives such as SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits).

An SREC is a tradable credit that represents the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. Each time the electric system generates 1000 kWh, a SREC is issued that can be sold or traded separately from the power. SRECs have value because utilities and energy suppliers can purchase them from system owners in order to meet the requirements determined in a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Residential and commercial solar system owners can harness this value to offset the costs of their solar energy systems. In some states, big solar threatens to reduce the value of these incentives by flooding the SREC market and decreasing the price of SRECs.

When creating and adjusting renewable energy policies, legislators and policy makers should recognize the unique benefits of small solar and distributed generation. It is important to understand that even though “big solar” may have some cost advantages, it is not the “best solar”.

Why Businesses are Taking Advantage of Solar Power Purchase Agreements

A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a legal contract where a solar project developer installs and operates a system for a business owner, homeowner, or tenant (the “host”) who in turn agrees to buy the solar generated electricity for a fixed period, usually 10 to 20 years. The host typically purchases the solar power at a fixed rate equal to or less than their normal utility rate and does not pay the upfront capital costs of the installation, making PPAs a very attractive economic option.

Developers like the model because the PPA contract ensures that the developer will be able to sell the solar electricity for a fixed period of time at a pre-determined rate. The PPA contract also removes negotiation and transmission costs that could be associated with solar projects that do not have a guaranteed energy buyer.

Businesses benefit from the federal and state incentives in place for owning a solar system. Specifically, Solar PPAs in the United States rely on the federal solar investment tax credit, which was extended for eight years under the Emergency Economic Stabilization act of 2008 and then amended with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 so that the solar investment tax credit can now be combined with tax exempt financing. This investment tax credit covers 30% of the expenditures on a solar system. Several state rebate programs also reduce the capital necessary for PPAs by providing grants corresponding to the size of the solar system.

The host business that is buying the solar generated electricity does not receive any of these tax credits or rebates directly, rather, the developer or company that finances and subsequently owns the system receives these benefits. However, the developer passes these benefits on to the host in the form of lower fixed rates for their electricity.

Because the developer fully maximizes all the incentives associated with a solar energy system, in some situations a PPA can be a better deal than ownership of a system. For example, non-profits cannot receive tax credits, implying that a PPA would be the better financial decision since the developer could access the tax credits and consequently provide solar electricity at a reduced rate to the non-profit. Furthermore, a solar developer can raise funds for a project (or portfolio of projects) through tax equity investors.

Similarly, businesses and developers engaging in a Solar PPA can take advantage of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). An SREC is a tradable credit that represents the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. Each time the electric system generates 1000 kWh, a SREC is issued that can be sold or traded separately from the power. Therefore, the legal owner of the system can sell their rights to SRECs to utility companies that need SRECs to comply with state Renewable Portfolio Standards. This represents another substantial method to offset the cost of the system and allow businesses to reduce their net costs and ultimately the PPA rate. As state rebate programs diminish, SREC values will become more important for financing solar.

As PPAs and new solar financing tools become more prevalent, it is important to understand the difference between a PPA and a lease. A solar lease is another common financing tool where a solar company builds a solar energy system on a host’s property and then the host pays a lease payment for the benefits of the system’s electricity production. This is different from a PPA where the host pays directly for the solar power. Many companies that began exclusively in solar leasing are now offering the PPA model to customers as well. Typically, nuances in state laws or consumer preference determine whether a developer will offer a PPA or lease. Solar developers who offer solar PPAs have encountered a large number of interested customers. For example, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Macy’s all use solar PPAs, and some estimates say that in 2008 PPAs represented over 60% of California’s non-residential solar market.

In short, PPAs allow businesses to take advantage of all sorts of solar incentives like SREC values, federal, and state incentives – all without any upfront capital. As large facility owners and tenants continue to demand solar without high upfront costs, PPAs will become more and more popular.