For comparison, the entire U.S. community solar industry installed roughly 540 megawatts in 2018, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, so the scope of the new fund is substantial relative to the overall market. "It’s not a trial; it’s a significant amount of capital," Raeder said. "The intent of both parties is to expand based upon the success of putting the initial tranche to work." The joint venture will initially target Maryland, Illinois and New York, Raeder said, but he is also tracking Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The company is actively developing in those markets, but this year will be more acquisition-focused, Raeder noted.
Previously, Raeder ran the East Coast commercial business for SunEdison. His team specialized in virtual C&I deals, in which they developed remote solar plants and sold customers derivatives of the power produced. After SunEdison collapsed, Raeder went off on his own, founding SRE in 2017. The skill set from virtual C&I translated naturally to community solar, he said; community solar necessarily involves translating offsite generation into customer bill savings. The scale is also similar — the company focuses on ground-mount systems between 2 and 5 megawatts.
The main forms of renewable energy are: solar, wind, hydro, biofuel and geothermal (energy derived from heat generated under the earth’s surface) and these sources are all continually replenished!
This is a great start for New Jersey, but it comes at the same time Governor Murphy announced a commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, including 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind – a sizeable development that does not deliver the localized grid and economic benefits that community solar can offer the state.
"It’s kind of that perfect size," Raeder said. "We can do several at once. It enables us to achieve scale, but in a reasonable amount of time."Now, with the pipeline built up in Maryland, Illinois and New York, SRE has a "clear line of sight" to installing 250 megawatts of community solar in the next three or four years, Raeder said.
The developer had access to project level finance previously, but this is its first time raising a fund. Doing so will enable SRE to do more business than it would have otherwise, according to Raeder.
A world record was set in 1990 when a solar-powered airplane flew across the United States in stages, using no fuel at all.
"It provides predictability and stability in terms of what we can do, both on the development front and the acquisitions," he said. "This is going to enable us to transact a lot more efficiently."
The investment stands out at this stage of development for the small but rapidly expanding community solar sector.“In the context of the national community solar market, 100 megawatts' worth of capital is nothing to sneeze at," said WoodMac solar analyst Austin Perea. "An investment of that scale also reflects a growing comfortability from the finance community with funding community solar, which has long been viewed as a risky asset class.”
At present, just over 7 megawatts worth of projects are under construction or seeking approval through the Enhanced Communities Renewable program: In. Sheep Creek near Victorville located in Southern California, developer Jaton is working on a 3 megawatt solar farm in Southern California Edison’s (SCE) territory territory.
A few other community solar developers have attracted direct investment in recent months.North American Infrastructure Partners bought a majority stake in Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective in April. The strategic investment allowed the developer to accelerate its development pace to 260 megawatts over the next two years. National Grid acquired Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, which develops community solar gardens, in March.