Infrastructure fund snatches up Clean Energy Collective

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For the past few years we at pv magazine have been reporting on the trend of asset managers, infrastructure funds, and even insurance companies and pension funds moving in to buy up portfolios of solar projects, starting with yieldcos and large-scale projects, and later moving into distributed solar portfolios.

The acquisitions have become particularly intense in the past few months, and we’ve written about the “wall of money” looking for projects to buy. Now these funds may be making the next step, which is going from buying projects to investing in the developers and other companies that make these projects happen.

Yesterday North American Infrastructure Partners (NAIP) announced that it had acquired a majority stake in Clean Energy Collective – one of the largest and most well-established companies in the U.S. community solar space, and one that operates both as a developer and a provider of software and subscription services to other developers. And it is not only NAIP that could benefit from this transaction, as it could accelerate the scale at which Clean Energy Collective deploys solar.

According to Michelle Davis, senior analyst of distributed solar at Wood Mackenzie, a main advantage for Clean Energy Collective is that infrastructure funds are able to access capital at a lower cost. “If Clean Energy Collective is trying to compete with sources of capital that other developers are getting, this makes sense,” Davis told pv magazine.

But it is not only the cost; more efficient access to financing is another perk cited by Clean Energy Collective, which it says will allow it to deliver on its growth plans faster.

NAIP’s sheer size may also be a benefit. “With CEC’s industry leadership and NAIP’s management track record of over 100 successful transactions valued in excess of $2 billion, we believe the combined expertise of our teams bring an unmatched competitive advantage to the community solar market,” stated Steve Roitman, NAIP Co-Founder and CEC Board Member.

Clean Energy Collective has big plans, and says that NAIP’s support will enable it to more than double its project development, estimating that it will deliver 260 MW of solar development over the next 24 months.

It is not clear how much of this will be developed by Clean Energy Collective, as the company often offers its software and subscription services to other developers as well.

And we do not expect that this will be the last such acquisition in this space.