BlackRock beefs up its bet on renewables with small-scale solar

by Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest money manager, is boosting its bet on clean energy.

Funds managed by BlackRock’s renewable power group have agreed to invest in CleanCapital, which owns and manages $300 million worth of small-scale solar systems in the U.S., as well as a partnership the two formed together. CleanCapital declined to say how much BlackRock is investing but said it’s on par with a $250 million partnership the company disclosed almost a year ago with fund manager CarVal Investors.

The BlackRock deal comes as institutional investors are getting more into financing small-scale renewable energy projects, signaling that wind and solar are increasingly seen as mainstream targets for returns. Big investors such as pensions have traditionally stuck to giant clean energy projects contracted to sell their power to utilities.

“It’s not as easy as utility-scale deals where you cut $100 million checks for one asset,” CleanCapital Chief Executive Officer Thomas Byrne said in an interview. “It takes work.”

The BlackRock-CleanCapital deal builds on an already-existing relationship: Last year, the two bought a 46.9-megawatt portfolio of U.S. solar power together from a unit of ATN International Inc. It was CleanCapital’s largest deal, and the company is now looking to expand into solar-plus-storage projects and into Mexico and Canada.

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