Solar Women Summer Series: Getting Involved with the D.O.E. SunShot Initiative

The teams at HeatSpring and are excited to kick off Solar Women Summer Series, a series of interviews featuring women who have taken HeatSpring’s solar courses and other interesting women doing important work in the solar industry. This week we feature Dr. Lidija Sekaric, Director of the Technology to Market Program at the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.



[Interview] How to Provide Solar Financing to Any Non-Profit Solar Project Larger Than 50kW

Lee Barken and his team at Collective Sun have figured out the holy grail of commercial solar financing.

Collective Sun can provide solar financing to non-profit solar projects from 50kW and up. Currently, they’re offering their product in California but are interested in doing the securities and legal work to open up shop in other states, if there is a non-profit that has serious interest in working with them.

Listen to the interview below to learn more about Collective Sun (CS) and how, specifically, their underwriting process is different than a traditional investor. Their key advantage is their unique underwriting process. It’s a really interesting strategy. Their process has more to do with selecting investors that see specific non-profits as low risk, rather than finding the non-profits that meet the stringent constraints of a tradition solar investor’s risk profile.

Why focus on non-profits?

There are several reasons why there has been such focus on non-profit clients.

Non-profits operate on small budgets and they always need cash. Having lower and predictable operating expenses is very valuable to these organizations. It’s an easy sell to get your foot in the door.
Non-profits have a social mission that tends to fit well with solar.
There’s A LOT of non-profits! So the potential target market is huge. According to NCCS, there are 1.4 million non-profits in the US. Figuring this problem out will result in a huge increase in sales for the firms that provide this service.
They can’t purchase a system in cash, because they don’t have a tax appetite, so financing is a natural fit for them.

A few months ago, we did a live Q+A that was specifically on performing due diligence, using crowd-funding,  and finding investors for financing non-profit solar projects. You can see the 50 minutes of video answering 5 question here. If you want to learn how to finance commercial solar projects from start to finish including all of the legal contracts, financial modeling tools, click here to read more about Solar MBA that starts on Monday April 14th. You’ll walk through the financing of a project in 6 weeks.

Listen to the Interview

In this interview, here’s what you’ll learn.

How many projects Collective Sun (CS) has financed.
The types of non-profits that CS is focused on.
The size of non-profit that CollectiveSun will work with.
The spark that made CS decide to focus on financing non-profits.
Lee Barken’s background and how that led him to CS.
Why financing non-profits is more than a tax problem.
How CS deals with non-profit risk by working with a very specific type of investor.


March 30th, 2014|Categories: Financing, Solar, Solar Design & Installation, Solar Finance|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Finance 101 for Solar PV Professionals

In order to sell solar PV projects, especially commercial projects, you need to understand finance. Understanding finance will allow you to calculate and communicate the financial benefit of a system to your client.

Download the Commercial Solar Finance Model 
Read the Guide to Financing Commercial Solar Projects
Solar Executive MBA
LinkedIn group: Best Practices for Financing Commercial PPAs Between 200kW and 5MW
60-minute interview with Solar Executive MBA instructors on financing commercial solar PV projects and power purchase agreements (PPAs)
50-minute interview on what commercial solar developers need to understand about yieldcos

This is the follow-up to Finance 101 for Renewable Energy Professionals. In that post I did walk-throughs and provided examples of all the financing terms you will need to know (IRR, NPV, discount rates, nominal cash flows, etc.) and how the terms of your financial analysis will impact the returns.

In this article I’m going to discuss how finance applies to residential and light commercial solar PV.  I’ll discuss how to plug solar-specific installed costs, incentives, etc. into a financial model so that you can properly understand the returns of a specific project and then communicate those returns to a client.

The post is a basic walk-through of solar PV financing, but some of these topics get complex quickly and are dependent upon specific customers, utilities, and geographic areas.  I’ll try to keep it basic but provide further reading and note where and why subjects get more complicated so you can do your own research.

I’m going to use Massachusetts-specific numbers because that’s the market I understand best. I will note if you should look into different elements depending on where you are located. For example, you may have time-of-use electric pricing in your area and you may not have SRECs, like we have in Massachusetts.

Here is the outline of what I’m going to discuss:

1. Government Rebates

The difference between one-time and production-based incentives
The value of tax credits vs rebates versus depreciation
How to calculate MACRS for commercial clients

2. Installed Costs: Gross and Net

Where to find good industry averages for installed costs
How to find gross and then net installed costs for a project

3. Operations and Maintenance Costs

The variables that drive operations and maintenance costs
How to calculate O+M costs based on a percentage of installed costs or by dollar amount of kW installed per year

4. Value of a Solar kWh based on Customer Type

The value of a solar kWh is worth EXACTLY the cost of the power it is replacing
Understanding how a residential client can be billed
Demand charges versus usage rates for commercial clients

5. Conclusion and Example Customers

Lastly, we’ll run through a few examples of different residential and commercial clients and determine the financial viability of the projects based on their IRRs and NPV, given a discount rate.
What is the impact of commercial client’s demand charges on the value of a solar project?

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