Monday, October 26, 2009

Building the Largest Solar Community in the U.S.

Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to Become Largest Solar-Powered Community in the Continental U.S. to Date

Solar power will provide an estimated 75 percent of the total energy needed to power Davis-Monthan’s Soaring Heights Communities

TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 26, 2009—Housing developer Actus Lend Lease, SolarCity®, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and financing parties National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) are working to create one of the nation’s largest distributed, community-wide solar power systems at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Upon completion, the community is expected to be the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S. The solar systems are expected to produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually—sufficient to provide an estimated 75 percent of the residents’ energy use next year—and could eventually offset 100 percent of Soaring Heights Communities’ electricity use.

Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan will also be Arizona’s largest solar-powered community. The complete installation is expected to include six megawatts of total solar capacity in a combination of a ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system and rooftop solar systems that will be installed on approximately 900 residences. National Bank of Arizona will own the 45,000 panel ground-mounted system, which accounts for more than 3.3 megawatts of solar capacity. The balance of the system is expected to consist of 36,000 more panels in the rooftop arrays. The rooftop systems are being financed within an existing SolarCity fund, which was financed by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) earlier this year.

The solar systems will be designed and installed by SolarCity and will be interconnected by TEP. The entire project is estimated to represent an increase of more than 15 percent over Arizona’s current grid-tied solar capacity. Collectively, the installation is expected to offset more than 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, the equivalent of taking approximately 50,000 cars off the road for a year, or planting more than 300,000 trees.

Soaring Heights Communities will also be one of the first solar-powered communities on an Air Force Base in the U.S. Actus Lend Lease is currently developing one of the world’s largest solar powered communities at its Army Hawaii Family Housing complex. Upon completion, the Army Hawaii Family Housing project will be the largest solar-powered community in the U.S. Through its partnership with the U.S. Air Force, Actus Lend Lease leases Soaring Heights Communities homes to military families.

“We are very excited about the Soaring Heights Communities project because it allows us to leverage our background and expertise in renewable energy initiatives as they relate to community development,” said Dale Connor, Actus Lend Lease managing director. “We look forward to working closely with our partners and the Department of Defense to set a standard for sustainable living here in Arizona and throughout the country.”

Starting earlier this month, SolarCity began installing 1,000 PV modules per day on previously vacant land near Soaring Heights Communities. Homes in the community have been selected for solar installations based on their specific location and suitability for solar panels. Most of the homes selected for solar system installations are new dwellings built to the rigorous energy efficiency standards of TEP’s Guarantee Home Program, while some are existing homes.

“As Arizona’s largest community bank, and driver in the growth of our state’s economy, National Bank of Arizona is making a sound investment in Arizona’s renewable energy future by funding the ground-mounted solar array. We’re pleased to finance what will generate positive economic and environmental impact in Arizona,” said Craig Robb, National Bank of Arizona executive vice president and chief financial officer.

TEP will provide incentives through its customer-funded SunShare program to reduce the long-term cost of Soaring Heights Communities’ photovoltaic installation. Both systems’ output will help TEP work toward the renewable energy goals established by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).

“Through the SunShare incentives that make this project possible, every TEP customer will be invested in the success of this remarkable new solar-powered community,” said David Hutchens, vice president of energy efficiency and resource planning for TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE: UNS). “This project will help shrink the carbon footprint of Tucson’s largest military base while setting a new standard for distributed solar power systems.”

SolarCity will be outfitting the solar systems with SolarGuard® monitoring systems to measure solar electricity production, and to measure the performance of the ground-mounted arrays against the rooftop arrays. The monitors will ensure that the system performs as predicted and inform both SolarCity and TEP about how such arrays might interact with the smart grid of the future.

“Soaring Heights Communities is truly a solar city, and our largest installation to date,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “We expect this project to be a springboard for additional clean power development in Arizona, one of the best locations for solar in the world.”

About Actus Lend Lease

Actus Lend Lease is the nation’s leader in public/private community development. With a focus on creating sustainable value, Actus Lend Lease communities are unrivaled in their attention to design, technology and environmental sensitivity. Known for its innovative initiatives Actus Lend Lease has developed some of the most sustainable communities throughout the military including: one of the world’s largest solar powered communities at Army Hawaii, New York State’s largest energy efficient community development at Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes and the largest LEED-Silver certified community in the state of Texas at Fort Hood (Saddlestone Ranch). Actus is also constructing the first Zero Energy Home on a military installation and was chosen as the Department of Energy’s partner to launch Operation Change Out, an initiative geared at replacing all incandescent light bulbs with the more energy efficient CFLs on all military installations. Actus has garnered many national awards for its sustainable initiatives including the 2009 Department of Energy, Excellence in Energy Star Promotions Award. For more information, visit

About National Bank of Arizona

Founded in Tucson, Ariz., in 1984, National Bank of Arizona is a community bank serving professionals and meeting the needs of small and mid-sized Arizona businesses. Arizona’s fourth-largest bank with more than $4.8 billion in assets, National Bank has over 75 offices throughout the state. For more information, visit

About Tucson Electric Power

Tucson Electric Power, a subsidiary of UniSource Energy, provides safe, reliable power and a variety of green energy options to more than 400,000 customers in the Tucson metropolitan area. For more information, visit For more information about UniSource Energy, visit

About U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation

With assets of over $6 billion, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation

(USBCDC) finances community development and affordable housing projects through the use of New Markets Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and Investment Tax Credits in Renewable Energy. USBCDC is a subsidiary of U.S. Bank and U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB). Through U.S. Bank, U.S. Bancorp, and other subsidiaries, the company operates 2,850 banking offices and over 5,000 ATMs in 24 states, and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at

About SolarCity

SolarCity—a national leader in solar power system design, financing, installation, monitoring and related services—was founded with the mission to help millions of homeowners and businesses adopt clean power, protect themselves from rising electricity costs, and protect their environment from polluting power sources. The company’s SolarLease™, PurePower™ and Commercial Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) options can make it possible for homeowners and businesses to switch to clean, solar power for less money than they currently pay for electricity. SolarCity currently serves 500 communities in California, Arizona and Oregon. Additional information about the company is available on the Web at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SolarCity Raises $100 Million for 2009

New York Times/Tom Woody

The credit crunch has walloped the residential solar industry, making it hard for installers like SolarCity to tap investor funds to finance rooftop arrays for their customers.

But in a sign that the recessionary clouds are parting a bit, SolarCity on Tuesday said that U.S. Bancorp has agreed to finance $100 million worth of solar installations in 2009.

That’s double the money the bank committed to provide SolarCity in June when the original deal – but not the financial details – was announced.

SolarCity, based in the Silicon Valley suburb of Foster City, offers customers the option of leasing their rooftop panels and thus avoiding the five-figure cost of buying a solar system.

The company retains ownership of the solar array and thus qualifies for a 30 percent federal tax credit against its cost. Since most startups have no use for such tax credits, they give them to investors in exchange for financing installations.

Still, most such tax equity partnerships have collapsed along with the Wall Street banks that often funded them. In fact, U.S. Bancorp stepped in after Morgan Stanley pulled the plug on a financing arrangement with SolarCity earlier this year.

“For all of this year, tax equity has been the No. 1 constraint in financing for the entire solar industry,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s chief executive. “In the third quarter of last year, there were about 20 active banks and insurance companies making tax equity investments. They all fell off a cliff and now there’s three or four.”

Despite the $100 million infusion, Mr. Rive said raising money for tax equity partnerships remains difficult. “The investors have been more selective and strict and they’re doing a tremendous amount of due diligence,” he said.

Mr. Rive noted, however, that the federal stimulus package has helped lure back some investors by giving them the option of receiving a government cash grant in lieu of the tax credit.

Mr. Rive said the the influx of financing has helped the company to hire 112 people — mainly solar panel installers — over the past four months, and the company now has a workforce of about 450 employees.

Other solar installers have found investors in recent months as well. San Francisco’s SunRun raised $18 million in a round of funding in July, and last week, Sungevity, based in Berkeley, Calif., announced that it had secured $6 million in its latest round of financing.

With solar panel prices plummeting this year due to over-production and more attractive federal incentives available to homeowners, financing remains the key hurdle for many customers, said Danny Kennedy, Sungevity’s president.

Mr. Kennedy has recently hired SolarCity’s former chief financial officer to develop a financing program for his company.

See the original article here