Green energy financier raises $200 million to build solar farms


BELLWORT TECHNOLOGIES PVT. LTD.

Big Solar is about to get bigger.

Veteran renewable energy financier Matt Cheney has raised $200 million that his new venture, CleanPath, aims to use to jumpstart 1,000 megawatts’ worth of solar power plants over the next five years.

The $200 million in cash and credit comes from a single public company that Cheney declined to identify until it files a regulatory disclosure about the investment.

“Money will cycle in and out of projects,” said Cheney, who previously ran MMA Renewable Ventures in San Francisco. “The money we use to get things done over next four or five years will add up to $800 million.”

That’s because once a photovoltaic farm comes online, CleanPath will sell its stake and recycle the earnings into new projects. By providing capital to developers and working with them to get solar power plants to the construction phase, CleanPath hopes to attract $3 billion to $4 billion in financing to complete the projects.

“We’re a good partner and advisor and we have a brand,” said Cheney, who left MMA Renewable Ventures after it was acquired by the Spanish company Fotowatio. “And we have a lot of money and credit. The idea is to fill the gap where projects run into a capital intensity wall.”

With federal tax incentives for solar set to ratchet down or sunset in coming years, Cheney said CleanPath is set to serve as the middleman to arrange financing for projects.

Innovations in financing as much as in technology have proven to be crucial in deploying renewable energy at a scale that will make it competitive with fossil fuels. (CleanPath is currently pursuing another financing mechanism called “community solar” that allows people to own a specific piece of a solar farm.)

Most of the projects CleanPath will seek to finance will range from five to 20 megawatts and will, as Cheney puts it, “snuggle the grid” in or around urban areas. That will avoid the environmental costs and controversies surrounding building huge transmission projects to bring electricity from big solar power plants in the desert to the cities. (It’s probably no coincidence that California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison have launched initiatives to buy 1,00o megawatts from such installations.)

Still, Cheney said CleanPath is working on a few centralized solar power plants in the 200-megawatt to 300-megawatt range. All the projects will deploy solar panels like those found on residential rooftops in huge arrays on the ground. But CleanPath plans to install and test more cutting edge technologies, such as concentrating photovoltaic systems, amid its conventional solar farms.

“We’re trying to populate a portion of our portfolio early with smaller projects so we have time to the bigger ones up and running,” he said.

While CleanPath does not plan to operate and own solar projects, it may do so occasionally until a buyer can be found for a power plant, Cheney said.

BELLWORT TECHNOLOGIES PVT. LTD.

SWATI JAIN

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  1. […] Green energy financier raises $200 million to build solar farms (bellwort.wordpress.com) […]

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