Conergy aims $100m at US market

Conergy has unrolled its strategy under new owner Kawa Capital Management, signaling plans to become a solar-lease provider in the US for PV installations between 500kW and 25MW, targeting companies, schools and other big energy users.

Behind those plans is a $100m tax-equity fund – known as Conergy Fund I – which will initially source its debt, equity and tax-equity finance from an unnamed Fortune 500 bank in the US.

The fund will also be backed financially by Miami-based Kawa Capital Management, which last November finalised its acquisition of Conergy’s global sales and service units.

Conergy’s module factory in Germany was subsequently acquired by China’s Astonergy, while its mounting-systems plant was bought by German investor Nordwest Industrie Group.

The solar-lease model has exploded within the fast-growing US residential PV market, allowing homeowners to effectively rent out their rooftops in exchange for a reduction in their electricity bills, while the PV system owner – often companies like SolarCity – benefits from selling the power and any relevant tax breaks over a period of years.

That third-party finance model has been relatively slower to take off for larger PV systems, however.

Anthony Fotopoulos, chief executive for the Americas at Conergy’s new holding company, says Conergy’s new strategy will see it employing a similar solar-lease model for “large-scale organisations such as municipalities, school districts, utility companies and investment-grade corporations”.

With a relatively small percentage of commercial buildings in the US in a position to access the kind of competitive financing that makes PV economical, Conergy seeks to “bridge this gap”.

The Conergy Fund I will streamline the financing process by “managing the financial analysis, credit rating, administration and financing, billing, and collection of power purchase agreements on behalf of the project”.

Conergy, a deeply experienced player in the global PV industry, will stay on to provide project development, EPC and O&M services for the projects, with plans to expand its new business model throughout the US and Canada, as well as internationally.

In November Conergy completed a 583kW commercial rooftop project in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The initial $100m pledged to the Conergy Fund I will cover about 50MW, Conergy says.

The company already has five projects in the US attached to the fund, and intends to acquire projects in “other growth markets” in 2014.