NEW YORK - A consortium comprised of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Prologis, and NRG Energy have announced a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Loan Programs Office to help finance what is believed to be the largest distributed rooftop solar power generation project in the world. The loan guarantee supporting $1.4 billion of debt facilitates a total project size of about $2.6 billion, which is being financed by the private sector over the next four years.

According to the companies, this distributed solar project will generate employment across 28 states and will create the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-year jobs. Once fully funded and completed, these installations are expected to provide approximately 733 megawatts (MW) of distributed solar energy, which is enough renewable energy to power approximately 100,000 homes.

Having received this conditional commitment from DOE, the three firms are working to finalize the financing for the distributed solar project and begin the first phase of installation. Of this first phase, 15 MW of solar capacity is ready immediately for construction and installation in Southern California, where the power generated will be sold to a local utility under long-term power purchase agreements that have been approved and executed. NRG Energy has committed to be the lead investor for the first phase of the project over the next 18 months.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is acting as sole financial and structuring advisor and sole lender on this transaction, which is being executed under DOE’s Financial Institutions Partnership Program (FIPP). Through FIPP, DOE will guarantee 80 percent of the $1.4 billion debt financing for this transaction.

“By harnessing the full capabilities of our platform we’re able to deliver this innovative transaction that brings together many parts of our Global Banking and Markets franchise,” said Tom Montag, president of Global Banking and Markets. “This important accomplishment transforms the dynamics of distributed solar generation, delivers a significant source of clean energy and creates thousands of jobs across the U.S.”

Prologis, a leading owner, operator, and developer of industrial real estate, will provide site access to rooftops and will also act as developer, construction manager, and program sponsor, in addition to making an equity investment. This effort is said to be the most recent example of the company’s long-standing commitment to renewable energy.

“As one of the world’s largest owners of distribution facilities and an active solar industry participant, we’re pleased to be a partner in a project of this magnitude,” said Drew Torbin, vice president of Prologis Renewable Energy. “This project will add significant scale to the distributed solar market and provides economic and environmental benefit to our shareholders and customers.”

NRG Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power companies and solar energy developers, in addition to funding the first phase of the project, has a right of first offer for the remainder (up to the program total of 733 MW) and will provide development resources and project expertise for the installations.

“NRG believes rooftop solar is a smart choice for industrial, commercial, and residential property owners in markets around the country, and this program provides the commercial scale that will bring the benefits of solar power to customers across the country,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar, the company’s solar subsidiary. “This program will nearly double the amount of grid-connected solar on-line in the United States today and make another positive contribution to cleaner air and a healthy environment.”

According to NRG Solar, it pursues a diverse, multi-technology approach to commercializing solar generation, including large-scale concentrated solar thermal and photovoltaic, and distributed solar. The company owns the largest solar photovoltaic plant currently operating in California and has more than 2,000 MW of solar projects under development or in construction across the United States.

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Publication date:07/11/2011