The mid-Atlantic region has witnessed a rapid growth in solar installations over the past few years. While the large multi-megawatt commercial projects make front-page news, it is interesting to note that there is also vibrant growth in mid-size commercial projects, ranging from 50kW-500 kW. Today, the total capacity of solar installed in the PJM region (solar projects in the mid-Atlantic region) is 262 MW, of which 83 MW comes from systems in the 50 kW-500 kW range. Moreover, the mid-size commercial project segment has shown steady growth, adding approximately 26 MW each year since 2009.
Large solar projects face significant financing hurdles because millions of dollars of capital are required, but these projects also fetch the attention of large banks, energy suppliers and tax equity investors. Mid-size commercial projects face the daunting challenge of financing their projects with less visibility, but they can be successful if they make use of all the available incentives and financing tools.
Many mid-size commercial developers and installers can help the customer through the process for applying to federal and state grants; however, monetizing the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) is often more difficult. SREC markets are complex for two main reasons. First, SREC markets differ across various states depending on the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP), the fee paid by energy suppliers for non-compliance of RPS requirements. Second, SREC markets have been known to be fairly volatile due to legislation changes and variations in supply and demand. These challenges can be mitigated by finding a stable partner with long-term SREC contracts who can help system owners navigate the legislation, and provide security of cash flow payments which allow system owners to accurately determine their payback period.
Investing in a mid-size commercial solar project is a sizeable investment for a small business owner or homeowner, thereby making it imperative to ask some difficult questions to the SREC aggregator or financier. The most important question to ask the SREC aggregator is: “Are your customer contracts backed up with energy supplier contracts?” If an SREC aggregator has long term contracts with energy suppliers, then the SREC firm has foresight into future SREC prices and can offer a fair, guaranteed rate. On the contrary, if an SREC aggregator is speculating on price and hoping to sell the SRECs in the spot market at a future date without any security of a long term agreement, their customer is exposed to a lot more SREC market risk. System owners should also be aware of the other factors that shape the SREC markets, like regulatory changes, rapid adoption of solar, and market shifts due to large-scale solar projects.
Being the oldest and largest SREC aggregator in the country, Sol Systems has matched a majority of its long-term SREC contracts with its energy supplier contracts, thereby providing the market stability and flexibility that mid-size commercial customers seek. Today, Sol Systems works with over 200 developers and installers in financing mid-size commercial solar projects. More information can be found at www.solsystemscompany.com.