On Tuesday, it was announced that Ember Infrastructure, a New York-based private equity fund that invests in renewable energy and sustainable water, waste, industrial and agricultural infrastructure assets, will commit $30 million to Denver-based SunShare, the largest and oldest residential community solar developer in the United States. According to a statement from the companies, SunShare will use the funds to accelerate its full-life solar development and innovation platform, and expand into new states.
Founded in 2011, family-owned SunShare currently serves 13,000 residential customers subscribed to more than 80 community solar projects across the U.S. states of Colorado and Minnesota. SunShare is one of the few developers to own and operate its projects.
“We were the first developer to see community solar’s potential to bring renewable energy to the masses in the drive toward a low-carbon future,” SunShare CEO and founder David Amster-Olszewski said in announcing the investment. “This investment will support our momentum; accelerate our ability to provide jobs, local partnerships with farmers, landowners, and utilities; and provide clean energy to more people to meet growing demand.”
“We see the community solar asset class and SunShare, in particular, as a strong investment opportunity in the shift to reduce carbon intensity in power generation,” said Ember partner Bob Kelly, who will join SunShare’s board in connection with the investment. “Ember looks for long-term relationships and recognizes the value of partnering with industry leading companies, like SunShare, an end-to-end project developer, owner, operator, and subscription manager of community solar assets.”
Community solar expands access to solar power generation beyond homes and businesses that are able to install solar panels on their rooftops. In addition to customers directly subscribing to a portion of the energy produced in SunShare’s community solar gardens, local electric utilities buy solar power directly from SunShare’s subscribers through credits on their electricity bills.
Community solar programs are a fast-growing segment in renewables, as data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided by Sunshare show that 75 percent percent of U.S. homes are unsuitable for rooftop solar panel installation and nearly 40 percent of U.S. households are renters who are not able to choose to install a rooftop solar option.
Ember Infrastructure has been in the news this summer for its biomass investment joint venture with ReEnergy Biomass Operations. The JV recently acquired Albany Green Energy, a biomass heat-and-power facility in Albany, Georgia, from a subsidiary of Exelon Generation Company LLC.
The facility uses woody biomass from mill residue, forestry waste, recycling and agricultural waste sourced from within a 75-mile radius of the site to provide 50 electricity to Georgia Power, process steam to the nearby Procter & Gamble paper products facility, and process steam that is used to generate electricity for the nearby U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Base.