It is going to be easier and faster for commercial solar projects to be financed and delivered. Announced in February 2015, Duke Energy is making available for commercial solar projects $225 million to REC Solar Commercial Corp or REC Solar, a commercial solar developer. The two companies are also developing a streamlined process for solar projects.
For pre-qualification of commercial customers, REC and Duke will create their criteria. When a potential commercial customer interested in solar energy installation comes to REC Solar, as soon as it is determined that the project meets the criteria, the customer can be told that Duke is ready as the investor and the process is predetermined. They can even agree to a construction start date with a signed agreement.
Although this is not limiting, a typical project will be 100-500 kilowatts, but according to REC Solar CEO Allen Bucknam, “Even a 1-MW [megawatt] project can flow better with the new process…I really think the solar industry has not served the small commercial market well to date so there is a lot of opportunity there.”
The process is similar to how getting a residential solar installation has been simplified with big solar installers like SolarCity and Sunrun. Since 2005, it has been a slow-moving process for typical commercial solar sales. REC Solar wants to provide the underserved smaller businesses with clean, distributed energy solutions through easier customer financing, including leases and power purchase agreements.
Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the nation, has wind and solar facilities in twelve states. Since 2007, Duke has invested over four billion dollars in utility-scale renewables projects; since 2009, over $41 million in piloting a rooftop solar program that’s putting solar installations on schools, manufacturing facilities, and municipal buildings. In 2013, Duke Energy invested in a company providing financial services and software to the solar industry named Clean Power Finance.
REC Solar was founded in 1997, is based in San Louis Obisbo, California, and has installed over 104.453 total megawatts in more than 350 commercial solar systems in the United States. It is described as “a national leader in solar electric system development, design and installation,” specializing in retail and manufacturing business, agriculture, government and utility projects, and nonprofits, and is committed to high-quality systems at a reduced solar power cost. It has done everything from small local business rooftop installations to multi-megawatt utility projects.
Duke Energy may be a catalyst in getting other utility companies to show interest in distributed solar generation. The terms of the REC Solar agreement were not disclosed.