SAN FRANCISCO — NRG Energy Inc. will finance and build one of the nation’s largest community solar networks in Colorado as part of the company’s push into renewable energy.
NRG, the largest U.S. independent power producer, will join with SunShare LLC for five projects in Denver and Colorado Springs that can produce a total of 8.2 megawatts, the companies said in a statement. Community solar projects allow homes and businesses that can’t install panels to buy the power from a nearby project.
“These types of programs, whether with homeowners, commercial businesses or municipalities, allow us to democratize participation in renewable power consumption,” NRG Senior Vice President Craig Cornelius said in a phone interview.
NRG’s expansion into solar comes as its conventional fossil-fuel power business faces declining demand growth. Some consumers are opting for technologies that allow them to produce their own electricity. With 75 percent of U.S. homeowners unable to install panels on their rooftops, community solar represents a “largely untapped opportunity,” said Cory Honeyman, an analyst with GTM Research. Utilities in 21 states now offer community solar programs, according to GTM.
The Colorado installations are expected to be operating by the middle of the year, NRG said. Customers, mostly businesses and municipalities, will sign a 20-year agreement to get power from the facilities. Unlike other large solar installations, which usually provide power to utilities, community projects sell directly to consumers.
NRG will be the majority owner while SunShare will manage the customer contracts, the companies said. The projects could be dropped down into NRG Yield, a separately-traded unit that holds renewable-power plants, Cornelius said.
NRG, based in Princeton, New Jersey, sees bringing these types of projects to additional states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts, Cornelius said.
Copyright 2015 Bloomberg
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