North American Infrastructure Partners, a recently launched infrastructure fund, this week purchased a majority stake in one of the top U.S. community solar developers, Clean Energy Collective.
Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective said the strategic investment will allow it to more than double its development pace. The company is now targeting 260 megawatts of development over the next two years.
Clean Energy Collective CEO Paul Spencer told Greentech Media the company installed 50 to 60 megawatts nationwide last year.
“The only thing [the acquisition] changes is [it] basically provides more access to capital,” said Spencer. “Ideally, we can do more community solar development.”
First Solar acquired a minority interest in Clean Energy Collective in 2014, and continues to own a stake in the company.
North American Infrastructure Partners, also based in Colorado, said that it launched last year with an eye towards actively managing its investments.
Michelle Davis, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, said the acquisition reinforces the trend of infrastructure funds and other institutional capital investing in solar. Mergers and acquisitions in the commercial solar market — a category that includes community solar — has already hit $500 million this year.
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Among the recipients of those investments, Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, acquired by National Grid in March, also develops community solar projects, as does Greenskies and NRG Energy (now Clearway Energy).
According to Davis, most commercial and industrial (C&I) developers now have some community solar in their pipeline. “Community solar is the fastest growing and oftentimes most lucrative opportunity for C&I developers,” she said.
Analysts forecast that the U.S. C&I solar market will see $2.5 to $3 billion of investment this year, with community solar representing a growing share.
Clean Energy Collective ranked 13th among all installers of C&I solar in the country last year, according to WoodMac, which dosen't specifically break out numbers for community solar developers.
Clean Energy Collective’s current portfolio spans 16 states, and the developer said the new money will help it expand in new and existing markets, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and its home state of Colorado.