Two technicians in helmets carrying a solar panel

June 7th 2021

Developer Inks Debt for US Floating Solar Project

This article originally appeared in Sparkspread on November 16, 2020 from journalist Victor Kremer.

White Pine Renewables, a recently launched renewable energy developer, has closed a commercial bank debt financing for one of the largest floating solar projects in the US.

In the deal, Salt Lake City-based Celtic Bank provided construction plus term debt for White Pine’s 4.78 MW (dc) Healdsburg floating solar project, located in Sonoma county, Calif., according to three sources familiar with the transaction.

Officials at White Pine and Celtic Bank declined comment.

Meanwhile, Kenwood Creek, the personal holding company of former Cypress Creek Renewables president Michael Cohen, is the sponsor/tax-equity investor in the floating solar project, according to the sources.

Cohen declined comment.

The project is contracted to the City of Healdsburg under a 25-year power purchase agreement and will be located on the city’s wastewater treatment facility, the sources said.

White Pine Renewables won the PPA with co-developer Noria Energy following a request for proposals from the city, which is looking to develop renewable distributed energy resources and storage as part of an effort to address resiliency of its electricity supply, according to one of the sources.

While installed floating solar capacity in Asia totals more than 1 GW, the sector is in its infancy in the US, the sources said.

In the case of Healdsburg, White Pine was able to design a project that meets the city’s need for distributed generation in an area characterized by high land costs, which also helps to reduce evaporation at the wastewater facility, according to the sources.

“To meet Healdsburg’s renewable energy goals the City’s electric utility is seeking new and economical sources of renewable energy. As land is expensive in California, especially in the wine country, floating solar offers the City an alternative to a costly land purchase or lease. The City’s two tertiary treated recycled water ponds, covering roughly 15 acres, presented an opportunity to increase the City’s renewable energy generation and mitigate algae growth in the ponds. Overall, the city expects the project to produce roughly 8% of the City’s energy needs, increasing the City’s roughly 40% renewable content to near 50%. Longer term, the floating solar system could be coupled with utility scale batteries to provide Healdsburg a micro- grid that improves the City’s resilience during California’s PSPS events”, Terry Crowley, Healdsburg’s utility director, said in a statement emailed to SparkSpread.

White Pine expects to bring another 10-15 MW of floating solar projects to market in the US next year, the source added. The San Francisco-based developer was launched earlier this year with a focus on projects in the 1-20 MW (dc) range.

White Pine is led by CEO Evan Riley, former v.p. of development and engineering at Cypress Creek Renewables; Dylan Dupre, president, who is the former president and CEO of CalCom Energy; and Michael Kremer, head of strategic finance, who was previously director of project finance at Cypress Creek Renewables.