ray of sunshine

DOE loans Houston company $3B for project that will provide solar energy to underserved communities

Houston-based Sunnova Energy has secured a loan from the Department of Energy. Photo via sunnova.com

A partial loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy will support more than $5 billion in loans for Sunnova Energy equipment and technology that’ll supply solar energy to underserved communities.

The $3 billion partial loan guarantee equates to a 90 percent guarantee of up to $3.3 billion in loans. In turn, Sunnova says, that’ll support more than $5 billion in loans to about 75,000 to 115,000 U.S. households. It’s said to be the largest single commitment to solar power ever made by the federal government.

At least 20 percent of the Project Hestia loans will be extended to customers with FICO credit scores of 680 or less, and up to 20 percent of the loans will be earmarked for homeowners in impoverished Puerto Rico.

The Department of Energy (DOE) says Sunnova’s Project Hestia — a virtual power plant — will provide rooftop solar, battery storage, and energy software to residential customers and create more than 3,400 jobs. Sunnova, an energy-as-a-service provider, says each residential power system will feature energy technology accessible by smartphones and other electronic devices.

“The software will give customers insight into their household’s energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, allowing customers to reduce electricity use — or even contribute electricity to the system in markets that allow such contributions — when the grid is under stress,” says DOE.

The estimated 568-megawatt Project Hestia is poised to help avoid the emission of more than 7.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years, DOE says. The project will produce enough energy to power roughly 425,000 homes per year.

John Berger, CEO of Sunnova, says the federal loan guarantee “marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in our pursuit of a cleaner and more equitable energy landscape. With our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, we are embarking on a journey that expands clean energy access and delivers economic benefit to Americans in disadvantaged communities.”

As of June 30, Sunnova had 348,600 customers in the U.S., up from 279,400 at the end of 2022. The company projects a 40 percent rate of customer growth in 2024 compared with 2023.

The publicly traded company posted revenue of $328.1 million in the first half of 2023, up from $212.7 million during the same period last year.

Last month, in an interview with EnergyCapital, Berger explained misconceptions about solar power, predicted the rise of the home as a power station, and highlighted the importance of energy independence.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

This new Texas wind farm is now partly powering Target Corp. Photo via swiftcurrentenergy.com

A Texas wind energy project has officially delivered and is actively providing power to its customer, Target Corp.

Boston-based Swift Current Energy, which has an office in Houston, announced this week that its 197 MW Castle Gap Wind project is operational. It has the capacity to create enough pollution-free energy to power more than 50,000 homes annually.

"Castle Gap Wind is a momentous project for Swift Current Energy as we grow our projects under asset management and operations," Eric Lammers, CEO and co-founder of Swift Current Energy, says in a news release. "Castle Gap Wind is one of the earliest projects supported by the Inflation Reduction Act, and we are thankful for our partners at Target, Goldman Sachs, MUFG, CaixaBank and of course the entire Swift Current Energy team who helped make the Project possible."

Goldman Sachs provided the tax equity for the project, and Target and Swift Current have established long-term virtual power purchase agreement. Additionally, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, or MUFG, and CaixaBank provided project financing.

"Goldman Sachs is pleased to partner with Swift Current Energy on their Castle Gap Wind project," Ryan Newman, head of Tax Equity at Goldman Sachs, says in the release. "Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the energy transition and supporting sponsors like Swift Current that are developing sustainable infrastructure in an effort to combat climate change."

The project is located in the Mills and Lampasas Counties, which are around 90 miles northwest of Austin.

"This Castle Gap Wind contract is a part of our commitment to renewable energy and is one example of how we are leveraging our size and scale to benefit people, the planet and drive our business forward," Erin Tyler, Target's vice president of property management, says in the release.

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