Sungevity Receives $125 Million
by Andrew Herndon
Sungevity Inc., a closely held developer of rooftop solar systems, received $125 million in venture capital and project financing to expand its U.S. leasing service.
Energy Capital Partners is providing $50 million of mezzanine debt and "a leading commercial bank" is providing $35 million in equity investments that will fund additional solar panel installations on homes in nine states, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Birch said by telephone.
Oakland, California-based Sungevity installs photovoltaic panels on homes and its customers pay a monthly fee to lease the systems for 20 years. Companies that finance and install solar are thriving after the price of panels fell about 30 percent last year, and one of Sungevity's competitors, SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), completed an initial public offering in December.
"There's a lot of momentum in this space, and we hope to benefit from that," though Sungevity has no specific plans or timeline for an IPO, Birch said. "We think that Sungevity's model is the most efficient model to serve downstream solar," he said.
The company was able to cut its total installation cost per system by about a third last year with Internet, software and satellite technologies that reach more potential customers and lower expenses for design and permitting, he said.
Sungevity also received $40 million in venture capital financing, led by existing investors Brightpath Capital Partners LP and Lowe's Cos., it said in an e-mailed statement. New backers Craton Equity Partners, Vision Ridge Partners LLC and Eastern Sun Capital Partners LLC also participated in the deal. 'Mainstream Financing Solutions'
Lowe's began offering in-store quotes for Sungevity's systems in 2011 after buying a minority stake in the company. Those services will be revamped this year starting at locations in California, Birch said.
Sungevity also is exploring other ways to expand the reach of its services, which may include new financing methods such as asset-backed securities, according to Birch.
"That's going to be a big part of residential solar," Birch said. "We're actively speaking to financiers on that and other structures," he said, without naming potential partners. "There is a maturing of the asset class, which is leading us to the more mainstream financing solutions."
Sungevity provides residential solar leasing in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Its customers in Connecticut buy systems instead of leasing them, Birch said.
The company invested in a venture in Australia last year and expanded to the Netherlands in 2011 after buying a stake in Zonline BV. Most customers in those countries also buy systems from Sungevity, though "we think that there's an opportunity to expand the lease offering in those two new regions," Birch said.
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