Powered by Solar, Financed by Third-Party

Installed atop a bottling plant at Fetzer Vineyards in California is a shiny new 901-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array. The entire cost of the recent solar project to the Mendocino County-based winery? $0.

MMA Renewable Ventures, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC, coordinated the financial backing to own, operate and maintain the Fetzer Vineyard system, and sell the clean energy to Fetzer under a long-term Solar Services Agreement (SSA) contract that sets the electricity costs at a fixed rate. “We get clean power from new solar at a cost that is 10% less than conventional power from the utility. It will stay below the cost of grid power for the length of the contract. It also reduces our peak demand power charges by 70%. All this at no capital expense and no increasing in the asset base,” said Susanne Zechiel, Fetzer’s manager of facility resources for its California wine group. Developed by 3 Phases Energy and installed by PowerLight, the Fetzer solar energy system was the first project in 2006 to be financed through MMA Renewable Ventures’ solar fund, a vehicle for institutional investment in renewable energy projects nationwide. Deploying the proceeds through its proprietary third-party financing model, the venture company works with solar energy developers such as 3 Phases Energy to offer customers predictably priced clean energy while avoiding the costs of installation and ongoing system maintenance. “While investment in clean energy projects is on the rise, solar projects, the largest of which tend to be small in comparison, only make sense to capital markets if they can be efficiently organized, which we have accomplished with this sponsorship and will in many more to come,” said MMA Renewable Ventures CEO Matt Cheney. Generating 1.1 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually, the Fetzer installation is positioned on the roofs of the winery’s bottling facility and Red Wine Barrel Room in Hopland, California. The array will supply about 80 percent of the bottling plant’s energy and about a third of the overall vineyard’s power. “Since 1998 [Fetzer Vineyards] has been committed to supporting renewable energy. We were the first and only winery to choose to purchase ‘green’ power when the California energy market deregulates and we maintain those direct access accounts currently. However, we also want to one, support the development of new renewable power sources and two, ensure our own access to clean power in the future,” said Zeichel, who hopes other businesses will be able to take advantage of the proprietary third-party financing model.
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