Leeward Renewable Energy closes financing for Rabbitbrush Solar + Storage Project


Leeward Renewable Energy announced that it has closed financing for the company’s under-construction Rabbitbrush Solar project, located in Kern County, California.

The financing includes $58.5 million in Green Loan construction financing from Wells Fargo, MUFG and Silicon Valley Bank and secured an additional $62.5 million tax equity commitment from J.P. Morgan, with $50 million of that tax equity commitment set to come once the project is operational.

“We are pleased to have secured financing for the Rabbitbrush facility, which will be Leeward’s first financing for a solar and BESS facility,” commented Chris Loehr, Leeward’s chief financial officer. “This is the first of many LRE solar and BESS financings to come as we build out the contracted pipeline in 2022 and 2023. We appreciate the strong support from our offtake partners and participating financial institutions, and we look forward to working together throughout the lifecycle of the Rabbitbrush project.”

The commercial operation date is expected to be reached this August. Construction on the project has been underway since Oct. 2021, according to a construction update offered by McCarthy Building Companies in Jan. 2022. The project will consist of more than 415,000 First Solar thin-film photovoltaic modules, as well as a 20 MW, 50 MWh battery energy storage system, and construction is expected to create some 300 new union jobs, with additional long-term operations jobs to come after completion.

According to the company, McCarthy and its partners are working closely with area groups, including the native Tejon Indian Tribe, to ensure respect for the area and its people is maintained throughout the construction process.

Central Coast Community Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy both signed on to purchase generation from the project via 15-year power purchase agreements.

Leeward originally acquired the Rabbitbrush project from First Solar, as part of a deal where the module manufacturer sold Leeward its 10 GW utility-scale solar project platform in a $261 million transaction.

The deal includes the Rabbitbrush, Madison, Oak Trail, Horizon, and Ridgely projects, which are expected to start construction in the next two years, and the 30 MW Barilla Solar project, which is operational. The project pipeline includes projects in the California, Southwest, and Southeast markets. Sale of the platform is a result of a strategic review First Solar announced last year, said CEO Mark Widmar. The sale is part of a transition that is intended to enable the company to focus on scaling, developing, and selling module technology.

As part of the deal, Leeward also agreed to buy 650 MW of First Solar’s Series 6 PV solar modules for its additional development opportunities. Leeward’s acquisition includes purchase orders for 888 MW of Series 6 modules for the five development projects.

Leeward is a portfolio company of OMERS Infrastructure, an investment arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest benefit pension plans.

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