US ROUND-UP: Microsoft invests in Mississippi solar, Greenbacker’s 12MWdc PV acquisitions and SolarBank’s community funding

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Clearloop started commercial operations at the Panola I solar project earlier this year. Image: Clearloop.

This week, US companies have made notable investments in small-scale and community solar projects. Microsoft and Clearloop’s Panola II project will have a capacity of 6.6MWdc, Greenbacker has acquired 12MWdc of new solar projects in Colorado and SolarBank has secured new funding streams for its 21MWdc community projects in New York State, as investors look to support a range of solar projects, and diversify portfolios away from utility-scale projects.

Microsoft and Clearloop invest in Mississippi

23 August 2023: Solar developer Clearloop is building 18MWdc of new solar capacity in Mississippi alongside the Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association, and has announced partnerships with a number of companies to build the projects, including Uber and Vanderbilt University.

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This week, technology giant Microsoft signed an agreement with Clearloop to deliver “an upfront payment for long-term renewable energy credits” to support the development of the second of Clearloop’s projects in the state, the Panola II solar farm. The project will have a capacity of 6.6MWdc, and will be operated by its parent company Silicon Ranch once work is complete, which Clearloop expects to take place in 2024.

Clearloop completed work at the 6.6MWdc Panola I project earlier this year, and the continued support of large-scale investors could help accelerate the energy transition in Mississippi. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the state has the 36th-most capacity among the US states, as of the first quarter of this year, but the body expects Mississippi to add the 25th-most new capacity over the next five years.

Greenbacker’s 12MWdc acquisition in Colorado

24 August 2023: Renewable power investor Greenbacker has acquired three solar projects in Colorado from OneEnergy Renewables still in the development phase. The Montezuma, Totten and Rocky Ford projects have a capacity of 6.4MWdc, 2.8MWdc and 2.6MWdc respectively, and Greenbacker expects all three to begin commercial operation this year.

The company also noted that each project has a long-term power purchase agreement in place with “high-credit-quality utility co-op offtakers”, but did not name the utilities involved or provide additional details of the arrangements.

The news follows Greenbacker’s receipt of US$148 million in tax equity, which the company has said will be used to support its solar portfolio. The tax credit was made available for solar developers as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, and the company will be eager to further expand its solar portfolio, which already accounts for 75.8% of the capacity of its 3.4GW renewables portfolio.

SolarBank secures funding for New York community solar

21 August 2023: Solar investor SolarBank has secured up to US$20 million in funding for its upcoming 21MWdc community solar project in New York state. The company’s subsidiary, Abundant Solar Power (ASP), signed a deal with “an arm’s length third party” to provide funding for the projects, and while neither SolarBank nor ASP specified the amount of funding, SolarBank noted that it could be as much as US$20 million.

SolarBank also announced that it was in negotiations with the unnamed backer to finish development on the project, before selling it to the backer as part of an engineering, procurement and construction agreement. Should the companies sign such a deal, SolarBank will be obligated to pay back the funding first committed by the backer, with an annual interest rate of 9%.

While the project’s financial future remains uncertain, SolarBank is clear that it will be a community project, where local residents can pay a subscription fee to the project’s owners to receive power generated at the facility, allowing renters and homeowners without solar panels to benefit from solar power generation.

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