In the aftermath of one of California’s most destructive series of wildfires yet, it seems the blame may fall on two of the state’s largest utility companies… again.

Regulators have communicated that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) may be responsible for both the southern Woolsey fire, and the Northern California Camp fire, both responsible for a number of deaths and billions in property loss.

This is not the first time both companies have faced the blame for other California wildfires, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has received reports showing equipment issues taking place near the ground zero areas of both fires, just before they began to spread.

While there is clearly a lot of work to be done on safety standards in the energy industry, recent studies have shown that increased implementation of renewable energies should improve the health of workers in this sector by a considerable amount. The Medical College of Wisconsin published a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Steven Sumner, M.D., concluding that wind and solar energy tend to lower the risk of injury due the fact that the energy extraction phase is no longer a risk for workers.

The factors analyzed included problems such as damage to the environment, air quality, fatalities and injuries. Fossil fuels showed the highest risk to workers, alongside Biomass fields such as organic waste and wood derived fuels, which also showed similar adverse safety results. The commentary by Sumner concluded:

“The energy sector remains one of the most dangerous industries for U.S. workers. A transition to renewable energy generation utilizing sources such as wind and solar could potentially eliminate 1,300 worker deaths over the coming decade.”

As we head into a new era of increasingly affordable renewables, safety is yet another reason to distance from more dangerous conventional fuel sources.

To find out more about how Sustainable Capital Finance simplifies the solar financing process r with its proprietary software, the SCF Suite™, contact Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com or Register to become a partner.

31 Dec 2018
December 31, 2018

SCF’s 2018 Year End Review

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2018 was a great year for both the solar power industry and Sustainable Capital Finance. SCF achieved a record number of projects priced with the SCF Suite™, forged several exciting new partnerships (to be announced soon) and helped dozens of businesses, municipalities and non-profits save millions on electricity costs with the variety of solar financing options currently offered.

We wanted to say thank you to all of our developer and EPC partners, that have been using the SCF Suite™ to expedite pricing & transactions, and, highlight a few of the more unique projects that SCF completed this year.

Dream City Church

Dream City Church in Glendale, Arizona is now home to the fourth and final solar installation in Dream City’s renewable energy portfolio. The project is unique in that it utilizes all spaces on the campus to integrate solar parking canopies, roof mounted arrays, as well as a steel superstructure that can provide shaded seating for events. The robust installation sports 2956 S-Energy photovoltaic modules to the tune of 945 kW of available solar power.  

In aggregate, their 3 campuses have a total installed capacity of 2.27 MW. This saves 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually compared to coal fired power – all while saving the Church money on their utility bills.

Sunnyside Unified School District

Sunnyside Unified School District is going green! The carport solar arrays at Los Ranchitos Elementary School, the adjacent Administration Center, BL Lauffer, Craycroft, and Drexel are ready to provide electricity to the district’s facilities with another ten nearing completion in Q1. The solar systems will offset nearly all electricity usage for each site, and are two of the first projects to reach completion, in the district-wide initiative.

The photovoltaic solar systems across the District will enhance the lives of 16,000 students, provide covered parking for 2,000 faculty and staff, and save over 30% on energy spend, with no upfront cost.

John Muir Health

John Muir Health installed a photovoltaic solar system on the roof of the Walnut Creek Medical Center’s parking garage. The system will produce approximately 580,000 kilowatt hours (kWh)  of energy annually and will save John Muir Health approximately $1.4 million in energy costs over the life of the system.

The installation will also help realize goals in greenhouse gas reduction set by the City of Walnut Creek and the State of California.

SCF in 2019

We are planning for an even bigger 2019, with additions to the SCF Suite™, several exciting new partnerships, and much more. If you haven’t gotten in touch with us yet about joining the SCF Suite™, or if you haven’t used it recently, please don’t hesitate to contact Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com or fill out the contact form to get in touch with us.

The team here at SCF would love to wish you & yours a happy holidays and a prosperous new year!

17 Dec 2018
December 17, 2018

The Future of Illinois Solar

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The Future of Illinois Solar

Solar friendly states such as California or Massachusetts have long taken the spotlight when it comes to support, initiatives and funding. When boasting well-funded and wide reaching programs such as SolarAPP and SMART it’s easy to see why. Over the last few years however, a new challenger has stepped into the ring and seems to be here to stay: Illinois.

The Current State of Solar in Illinois

It may not have the year-round sunshine of California, but Illinois has a lot to offer a potential solar system owner. Residents of the state receive not just a 30 percent federal solar tax credit, they are also eligible to take advantage of the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market, a program with big changes slated for 2019.

There is currently a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandating that Illinois produce 25 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2025, and 1.5 percent of that from solar power. Not only are solar system owners able to sell the electricity produced (behind-the-meter & in-front-of-the-meter structures) they can also sell the SRECs as well which helps the state to achieve its solar requirements.

SRECs can vary greatly in price depending on how much demand exists in a given market. System owners often sell their SRECs to aggregators who manage the sale between the state and system owners, paying those owners quarterly over a 5 year span.

Where is the Illinois SREC Program Going?

Illinois government recently made changes to its legislation to alter the REC program, proposing a new structure known as the Adjustable Block (AB) Program, which would provide a new structure lasting for 15 years instead of the previous 5 year program. What’s more, the SRECs under this structure will be sold for a set price as opposed to the variable pricing set previously.

There will now be “blocks” under the AB Program that will determine the new pricing, with an associated SREC price set to specific amounts of installed solar megawatts. Those blocks will fill up and systems will be ascribed to the subsequent block at a lower price, meaning that as more solar gets installed there will be less funds available. The following factors will decide an Illinois residents eligibility for certain blocks: Capacity, Type of off-take (behind, in-front, community, etc.), System Size and Utility.

Below you can see the block and pricing info that the Illinois Power Authority has provided.

These prices are set for 15 years, although it should be noted that the payments are front loaded over the first five years, making the program even more attractive as far as third party financing.

How Can SCF Help Illinois Off-Takers Access These Blocks?

Sustainable Capital Finance is a commercial & industrial (C&I) solar financier, providing PPA solutions to EPCs and Developers for projects as small as 100kW.

Using SCF’s proprietary software, the SCF Suite℠, members can instantly price their projects and try various options in order to evaluate project economics.

If you are evaluating a project and would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us.

Cash, Solar PPA or Solar LeaseInterest in adopting solar energy is growing among business & home owners across the USA, and many of these energy consumers have questions related to the options available for integrating solar PV systems onsite.

There are three basic methods used in the industry to adopt distributed solar energy:

  1. Purchase the system outright using cash or a loan
  2. Engage in a Power Purchase Agreement
  3. Engage in a Solar Lease

Purchasing a system outright has a number of benefits including Federal Tax Credits and depreciation (if a customer is a taxable entity, with tax liabilities). The energy consumer owns the system and utilizes the power generated by the system, for the life of the equipment (typically 25-35 years). The downside to this approach is that it also entails a significant cash outlay that may be too rich for existing capex budgets. Additionally, if anything goes wrong with the system any maintenance, repairs or upkeep are the responsibility of the energy consumer.

Another methodology utilizes a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). A PPA is a long term agreement (generally 15 to 25 years) that typically has no upfront cost.

Using a PPA, the energy consumer is charged a set electric rate which is typically below their current cost of electricity, allowing them to save money from day 1. The PPA rate either remains flat, or escalates at a fixed rate (usually 1-2%) over the course of the agreement. If electricity costs rise (due to energy inflation) at a faster rate than the escalator rate within the PPA, then the energy consumer will realize exponential savings annually, throughout the term of the agreement.

A solar PPA is not a financing mechanism, however, like traditional loans or leases. Once the initial term has ended, the energy consumer usually has the right to purchase the system for fair market value, or enter into a new PPA at a reduced rate. Another significant difference is how PPAs and Leases are treated on an energy consumer’s balance sheet. PPAs are typically not found on a balance sheet, as are loans & some leases, therefor many energy consumers prefer PPAs as they tend to not limit borrowing capacity.

Power Purchase Agreements are most useful for tax exempt entities, such as non-profits like municipalities, churches, and public schools. Since non-profit entities are unable to benefit directly from available tax benefits (like the Federal Investment Tax Credit and depreciation) from owning a solar PV system, utilizing a PPA from SCF is the most cost-effective way to adopt solar energy. In this scenario, SCF would monetize the tax benefits as the system owner, and then pass on these benefits to the customer in the form of lower PPA rates.

Facts about Solar Leases

A Solar Lease is a medium term obligation often utilized by for-profit entities especially in territories where PPA’s are not allowed. Unlike a PPA, the off-taker pays a fixed lease payment instead of paying for the power generated by the solar system. Most Solar Lease programs have term lengths between 7-10 years, and most will likely have a residual payment that would need to be paid at the end of the lease term if the customer is purchasing the system.

Since the term length of the lease is considerably shorter than a typical PPA term, the ability for the customer to save money in the system’s first year of operation is usually limited, and in most cases will require the customer to pay more than they would otherwise pay for their energy consumption.

One often overlooked fact of Solar Leases, is that they require the customer to perform system maintenance on the solar array during the lease term. If the system stops working for any reason, the customer is still obliged to make the lease payments whether or not the system is producing electricity.

Why Choose a PPA or Lease Instead of Outright Purchase?

Some people may wonder why purchasing their solar PV system outright isn’t a better choice, as opposed to a PPA or a Solar Lease, and the answer may depend on both location and business type.

As mentioned previously, tax exempt entities are unable to benefit from tax benefits, meaning a Power Purchase Agreement would be much more cost-effective. For commercial and industrial off-takers or other for-profit entities, the answer often comes down to available CAPEX budget and maintenance.

Solar panels and inverters do fail, and when they do, it’s very beneficial for an energy consumer to be able to rely on the PPA provider to monitor its system, and to pay for repair and maintenance rather than covering that expensive work out of their own pocket.

The fact that the array can be purchased outright at the end of the agreement also means that there’s no need to worry about losing the benefits of ownership once the PPA or lease term is up.

How Does SCF Help Consumers Save with PPA’s?

SCF utilizes the Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) Commercial Power Purchase Agreement for all of its projects, which is an industry standard PPA. This reduces legal costs, complexity, and project transaction costs, which permits SCF to offer better terms to energy consumers.

Using SCF’s proprietary software, the SCF Suite℠, members can instantly price their projects and try various options in order to evaluate project economics.

If you are evaluating a project and would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com or fill out the contact form to get in touch with SCF.

How will we charge electric vehicles in the future?It’s a common dream among automakers and renewable energy advocates: electric vehicles powered by the sun, no longer reliant on fossil fuels. It is a common goal that has been achieved in many prototypes, and is even available as an optional solar roof upgrade on the Prius Plus, billed as a means to top up the cars battery. But just how realistic is it that we will see fully solar powered cars in our lifetime?

While the tech behind solar materials is rapidly advancing, the amount of surface area necessary to provide any meaningful charge in a short amount of time is still unrealistic on a personal vehicle. It would take roughly 80 hours for one of Tesla’s semi-trucks to fully recharge their batteries, even with many times the surface area of a normal car. That doesn’t mean however that our cars can’t be fully solar powered, but for the near future our focus should likely remain on receiving that charge from a home-based system.

While charging stations are becoming more common in many cities, they still are nowhere near as ubiquitous as gas stations, meaning that most electric vehicle owners will need to charge their cars at home. It seems counterproductive to charge from the grid, especially considering the cost of so much electricity, which is why a home or business solar grid can be the perfect solution to power electric vehicles.

The first question on most people’s minds: how much will it cost to install, and how much will it cost to charge? There are quite a few variables to keep in mind, such as location and state solar incentives. However, most calculations show solar installation and batteries costing equal to or less than paying for electricity when calculated per day. To read a detailed breakdown of the potential costs, you can check out this article by Solar Power Rocks.

How SCF Can Help Your Business Power A Solar EV Fleet

Maybe you run a small business with a good amount of roof space that is interested in powering several electric company vehicles, or maybe your church or school would like to install a solar charging station in your parking lot. Sustainable Capital Finance provides commercial solar financing, and can help with applications like these and more, providing commercial solar PPA solutions to EPCs and Developers for projects as small as 100kW.

If you are evaluating a project and would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact Dan Holloway @ dholloway@scf.com or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us.