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16-MW California pollinator-friendly community solar farm secures financing

Pollinator
Credit: Photo by Stephen Bedase on Unsplash

Solar developer, Lightsource BP, announced that it closed on a $20 million financing package and mobilized construction on its Wildflower Solar project located in Rio Linda near Sacramento, California. The electricity generated by the 16.5MWdc/13MWac project will be purchased by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) through a long-term power contract.

SMUD will use the power purchased from Wildflower to support its Neighborhood SolarShares program that can provide solar to new housing developments through an off-site utility scale solar project. The community solar program allows developers to deliver the environmental benefits of solar power without having to install it on every rooftop.

Lightsource BP secured tax equity financing for the project from Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. European commercial bank, National Westminster Bank PLC (NatWest), is the senior project finance debt lender. The balance of the equity requirements will be invested by Lightsource BP. The company also engaged CohnReznick as the financial advisor on the transaction.

Project construction is underway, with commercial operation expected by the end of 2020. U.S. electrical manufacturer, Construction Innovations, has partnered with local contractors to build the project. The project will employ more than 75 on-site construction team members from the local community during peak construction, in addition to supporting full time manufacturing jobs within Construction Innovations’ Sacramento facility.

Pollinator friendly solar – fostering biodiversity and boosting crop yields

Lightsource BP creates customized long-term land and environmental management plans for solar farms that aim to maintain, as well as develop, plant and wildlife habitats to provide a net gain for local biodiversity. The plan for Wildflower Solar will be to create a pollinator friendly solar farm, designed in collaboration with ecology experts to restore and conserve pollinator habitat.

Habitat loss and climate change have caused pollinator populations to decline. Over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, are dependent on pollinators, so declining populations have detrimental effects on food systems worldwide. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have found that stable pollinator populations facilitated by pollinator-friendly solar farms allowed nearby agricultural land to be pollinated and, ultimately, boosted crop yields.

Arlen Orchard, SMUD CEO and General Manager, said, “This program provides options to builders and a net benefit to potential homebuyers, all while providing clean power to our community. The state of California and the Sacramento region are facing an affordable housing crisis and our low-cost solar option provides a valuable tool to lower the construction costs of new homes while supporting carbon reduction goals.”

Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas for Lightsource BP, commented, “The affordability of solar, combined with its generation of emissions free electricity has made it an ideal source to add to our country’s energy mix. Adding on benefits such as community solar programs that help contribute to affordable housing, along with implementing long-term land management plans that enhance local biodiversity, are all ways that we can work together to multiply solar’s contribution to our nation’s economy and environment.”