Conergy And Demeter Bring Third-Party Ownership To PACE

Miami-based solar developer Conergy and West Palm Beach, Fla.-based solar financing firm Demeter Power Group have debuted a financial structure developed under the rules of the CaliforniaFIRST property-assessed clean energy (PACE) finance program.

The PACE Lease financing structure enables commercial property owners to fund a solar project as an improvement by collecting third-party-owned solar revenues as a property tax assessment. PACE Lease is trademarked intellectual property of a partnership between Demeter Power and Conergy. The trademarked PACE Lease stems from a financing platform devised by Demeter with Conergy’s financial backing.

PACE Lease operates through the California’s existing PACE program, which is administered by Renew Financial. Its distinction is that it allows outside capital to provide third-party financing for solar projects.

According to Yann Brandt, global head of marketing and public relations for Conergy, PACE traditionally has been used by building owners to pay for improvements, essentially in the form of a debt investment. It’s like getting a loan. There have been other projects - including solar projects - in the CaliforniaFIRST area that have used PACE to fund a portion of their capital, but it was always in the form of debt.

“What we’re doing that’s innovative is bringing third-party ownership into the PACE program,” Brandt says. “The main reason we’re doing this is because the commercial solar market suffers from the fact that there is no FICO score equivalent. There is no way to do underwriting and have good credit security in the commercial arena.”

By using PACE Lease and securing power purchase agreement (PPA) revenue as a PACE assessment, Conergy and Demeter are able to bring not only the debt, but also the equity and tax equity into a project. The partnership estimates that 90% of commercial property owners currently are unable to secure funding for solar projects. PACE Lease is aimed at that market.

“We are leveraging the platform to innovate solar financing beyond just project debt, which is what PACE was originally going for,” Brandt says.

The partnership is jointly developing those projects through Conergy’s sales force and Demeter’s channel partners. Ultimately, Conergy is the investor and owner of the project.

The first such project financed under the auspices of PACE Lease is a 200 kW solar power system for the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in San Leandro, Calif. Demeter is developing the project, which Conergy is funding and will own.

Brandt says there are definite symbiotic aspects to the relationship with Demeter Power, which developed its funding platform concept involving PPAs and PACE with an incubator award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. Demeter’s innovation and ability to open up a new market offers Conergy the ability to own more projects in a new market territory. Demeter Power receives the financial backing of Conergy, which is majority-owned by Miami-based Kawa Capital Management.

For its part, CaliforniaFIRST administrator Renew Financial benefits by the overall increase in solar projects being funded by PACE programs.

“We believe this project will be the catalyst for commercial solar to take off in California,” says Brad Copithorne, vice president of commercial PACE for Renew Financial, in a statement. “Business owners have been looking for this type of financing that is offered at competitive rates and that allows for easy repayment on their property taxes. We are looking forward to funding similar deals with partners like Conergy and Demeter through the CaliforniaFIRST program.”


Sonnenbatterie Opens New R&D Facility In Atlanta

Germany-based energy storage systems manufacturer Sonnenbatterie has opened a new research and development (R&D) facility in Atlanta.

The 5,000 square-foot location will house 12 to 15 engineers who will expand Sonnenbatterie’s current array of energy storage devices for homes and businesses. The new Atlanta facility will be the center for product development, prototyping and testing for the U.S. market. Sonnenbatterie took over the space from inverter developer SolarMax.

The company says that its lithium battery systems, coupled with a solar energy system, can fulfill the electricity needs of residential owners in addition to providing backup power for the home and taking advantage of different tariff structures. For commercial customers, Sonnenbatterie systems can help reduce demand spikes that lead to peak load charges.

“Sonnenbatterie has come to symbolize performance, design and value in Europe, and we aim to develop that same reputation here in the U.S.,” says Boris von Bormann, CEO of Sonnenbatterie USA. “Our new Atlanta R&D facility gives us a unique platform to stay close to our American customers and partners and deliver to them custom-tailored products that are best suited for the U.S. market.”


Kodak And Oak Ridge National Lab Collaborate On Energy Tech

Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak Co. and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have entered into an agreement to accelerate commercialization and manufacturing of next-generation battery and energy storage devices and materials.

The partnership will focus on connecting emerging companies in the cleantech sector with resources at both ORNL and Kodak’s Eastman Business Park (EBP). It is hoped that the effort will also spark the formation of new high-tech companies at EBP.

Applications currently under way at EBP and ORNL include the following:

“The diverse capabilities of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, spanning a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines, will support accelerated development of the growing base of clean energy companies at Eastman Business Park,” says John McMullen, Kodak’s chief financial officer.


Tesla Storage Entry Should Boost Commercial Hybrid Energy Market

Germany-based energy analyst Thomas Hillig, founder of THEnergy, says Tesla Motors’ recent unveiling of its Powerwall residential battery has prompted much discussion in the industry and among competing storage manufacturers. However, in the context of solar- and wind-diesel hybrid energy plants, the larger Powerpack is more interesting, Hillig says.

From a technical standpoint, many details of Tesla’s Powerpack have not been communicated yet. As a consequence, Hillig says, the commercial value of Tesla’s Powerpack solution is similarly vague.

At the same time, the hype around the Tesla announcement draws additional attention toward all storage solutions, including battery usage in solar- and wind-diesel hybrid projects. In many cases, Hillig reports, Tesla creates an awareness of storage solutions that was missing before. “After Tesla’s storage introduction, we have observed that more and more industrial and commercial end-customers actively ask for information about energy storage solutions,” he says.

Tesla’s market entry will help enable the whole “pie” of decentralized energy solutions to grow, Hillig concludes. This is good news for the existing storage manufacturers and solution providers. On the market side, they can expect a general growth, which can only partly be covered by Tesla. Most likely, there will be more than enough space for other players in the electrical storage market.

All storage providers are now in a better position to convince their investors that they are in an attractive business field, but they do not need to fear that Tesla will crowd them out in the near future.


Interior Department Approves Solar Energy Zone Projects

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the first three solar energy zone (SEZ) projects as part of its Western Solar Plan.

When built, the three solar energy projects, located on public lands in Clark County, Nev., will have a combined capacity of up to 440 MW. Invenergy’s Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar’s Playa Solar Project and NV Energy’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Center were submitted for approval by the three successful bidders to a competitive auction BLM held on June 30, 2014, netting $5.8 million for solar leasing on parcels of public lands in the Dry Lake SEZ. The auction was part of the competitive leasing process required for SEZs under the terms of the Western Solar Plan.

The BLM says its Western Solar Plan allows for a more efficient and predictable permitting process by focusing development in SEZs with the highest resource potential and lowest conflicts. The expedited reviews of these three projects were completed in less than 10 months, or less than half the amount of time it took under the previous project-by-project system. These reviews also include consideration of the first regional mitigation strategy for SEZ projects.

Critics have pointed out that the comparatively rapid Dry Lake SEZ approval process had been preceded by more than four years of National Environmental Policy Act review, followed by another 18 months of regional planning. Furthermore, the proposed rules now under consideration by the BLM could possibly add complexity to the approval process.


Renewable Share Of U.S. Energy Consumption Highest Since 1930s

Renewable energy accounted for 9.8% of total domestic energy consumption in 2014. This marks the highest renewable energy share since the 1930s, when wood was a much larger contributor to domestic energy supply, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Renewable energy use grew an average of 5% per year over 2001 to 2014 from its most recent low in 2001. The increase over the past 14 years was, in part, because of the growing use of wind, solar and biofuels.

For example, wind energy grew from 70 trillion Btu in 2001 to more than 1,700 trillion Btu in 2014, notes the EIA. During the same period, solar energy (solar thermal and photovoltaic) grew from 64 trillion Btu to 427 trillion Btu, and the use of biomass for the production of biofuels grew from 253 trillion Btu to 2,068 trillion Btu.

Hydroelectricity was the largest source of renewable energy in 2014, but hydro consumption decreased from higher levels in the mid-to-late 1990s. Wood remained the second-largest renewable energy source, with recent growth driven partly by demand for wood pellets. S

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Conergy And Demeter Bring Third-Party Ownership To PACE




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