Wells Fargo invests in N. Carolina PV

The amount of tax-equity financing Wells Fargo bank has fed into North Carolina solar developer Strata has crossed the $100m mark, according to Strata.

Founded five years ago, Chapel Hill-based Strata has emerged as one of the fastest-growing forces in North Carolina’s booming PV market, which is expected to be the second largest in the US this year, after California.

The tax-equity financing from Wells Fargo has supported nine modest utility-scale PV arrays completed recently in North Carolina, including the 6.4MW Wagstaff project, Strata said today.

Electricity from the nine projects is being sold to the utility Progress Energy Carolinas.

Wells Fargo claims to have provided over $4 bn in tax equity and construction financing for US renewables energy projects over the past eight years, including $1.3bn for solar.

Strata is a fast-growing customer of a number of tier-one module suppliers, including Canadian Solar, ET Solar and ReneSola.

Although the well of mega-PV projects under development is drying up in many parts of the US, as states get on track to meet their renewables targets, North Carolina and Georgia – two sunny states which are both a long way off their targets – remain key markets for PV arrays larger than 50MW.

Barry Neal, head of Wells Fargo’s environmental finance division, noted the bank’s intention to maintain a stake in “the rapid expansion of solar in the Southeast”.

North Carolina surged last year to become the second largest statewide solar market last year, according to some estimates, adding 335MW of new capacity, and it appears likely to widen its lead over Arizona this year.

On their own, California and North Carolina will likely be big enough PV markets this year to make the top 10 list of countries globally, notes market researcher NPD Solarbuzz.

Strata has three 75MW projects under development, all due to come on line over the next year.

Other big players in North Carolina include Asheville-based Innovative Solar Systems, which is developing several hundred megawatts of utility-scale capacity for Duke Energy.