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Just who is financing some of N.C.'s largest solar projects?

February 3, 2014

Just who is financing some of N.C.'s largest solar projects?

There is little doubt that solar energy is clean energy – and a widespread use of such energy is good for the environment.

So, when Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar started this ambitious journey of generating hundreds of megawatts of solar energy across North Carolina, and selling it back to the power companies such as Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), if you are an investor in solar, you are wondering about the ROI. It is a sure shot, right?

Well, not exactly.

Solar energy is more valuable where utility rates are high, and when coupled with tax incentives for homeowners embracing the energy source to power their homes, residents in some states have a better return on investment than others.

For North Carolina, according to calculations by the New Jersey-based Cost of Solar Inc., the average return for its residents is about 9.2 percent – ranking it 15th among all states.

But if you ask folks at the Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Bank, the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Looks like NCB is “all-in” with Strata Solar and its CEO Markus Wilhelm. The company financed about 15 of Strata's solar projects across the Tar Heel state for $82 million – that generated 94MW of power in 2013, enough to power 11,250 homes. Strata sells the electricity to Duke and its subsidiaries. 

Markus Wilhelm's Strata Solar has become a major player in North Carolina's solar industry.

NCB touts itself as being a financial services company that is always looking for socially responsible lending, and executives believe Strata fits the company's investment model. NCB officials add because of the financing, Strata was able to hire 1,200 people last year.

“Our strategy is to build our utility scale projects in regional 'clusters' so that our teams move from one job to the next creating sustainable long-term job growth,” Wilhelm says.

Strata has become a big player in the solar energy space. With more than $500 million in revenue last year, the company is trapping additional wind to accelerate the development of these solar farms across the state in 2014.

But Wilhelm needs big-money investors to help him develop these farms. NCB is playing a critical role in that regard.

via Just who is financing some of N.C.'s largest solar projects? – Triangle Business Journal.