US ROUND-UP: DOE to accelerate solar in underserved areas, American Securities closes CS Energy deal, Hoosier targets 1.6GW of solar in Indiana

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A solar project completed by CS Energy in New York State last year. Image: CS Energy.

DOE pledges to ramp up solar deployment in underserved communities

4 May 2021: The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new initiative and set aside US$15.5 million to support the deployment of solar power in underserved communities.

The DOE said it wants to install more solar capacity in areas that have suffered more from fossil fuel pollution through new investments in two existing programmes: SolSmart, and the Solar Energy Innovation Network, which will receive grants totalling US$10 million and US$5.5 million respectively.

In addition, the authority has launched an Equitable Access to Community-Based Solar Request for Information in order to capitalise on community solar projects to reach more underserved areas, and will set up a series of meetings with environmental justice organisations, state and local governments and solar developers to discern how these projects can best address energy challenges in underserved communities.

At the same time, it has also announced plans to direct funding opportunities to students and faculty at historically black and minority-serving colleges to improve the sector’s diversity.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the department is “missing out on untapped talent…leaving us with narrower innovation, and insufficient solutions to the problems we face.”

It is the latest in a string of announcements from the DOE to accelerate solar deployment in the US with a view to decarbonising the country’s power mix by 2035.

American Securities closes CS Energy acquisition

4 May 2021: Private equity firm American Securities has completed its acquisition of New York-based solar and energy storage engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) group CS Energy.

The developer has constructed around 1GW of solar capacity and 300MWh of energy storage in the US and overseas. Michael Sand, American Securities’ managing director, said in a statement that the company fits within its current strategy of investing in “leading companies” that support the US’ energy transition.

“We are impressed by the CS Energy management team, corporate culture and outstanding track record,” said Sand, “and are thrilled to partner with management to achieve its growth plans.”

The PE firm has acquired CS Energy from a fund managed by investors Ares Management Corporation and The Conti Group.

Hoosier targets Indiana with new solar goals

28 April 2021: Solar developer Hoosier and EPC provider Innovateus have announced plans to erect solar power and battery energy storage systems (BESS) in disadvantaged communities in the state of Indiana totalling 1.6GW capacity.

It is hoped the projects, which take advantage of capital gains tax breaks due to their location, will provide enough power to supply 285,000 households in the area.

Hoosier has selected local solar construction company Innovateus as its EPC partner on the project, with some installations expected to come online by 2023.

The projects will be built in Indiana’s Qualified Opportunity Zones, which provide tax advantages to companies that invest in their “economically distressed urban and rural communities”.

Carl Weatherley-White, Hoosier Solar’s chief executive officer, said that Indiana has “remarkable resources for solar power” due to its agricultural sector.

He said that residents “want to preserve productive land for multiple generations”, adding that solar projects provide farmers with “long-term, steady income that is neither seasonal nor dependent on weather or crop pricing”.

“During the period that the land is not actively farmed, it can regenerate for future generations.”

The company will supply power to communities by working with Indiana’s municipal and regulated utilities, as well as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), and also supply the mid-Atlantic region through the PJM regional interconnection organisation.

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