There are many reasons why commercial and industrial (C&I) solar installations are gaining attention: from saving money to creating sustainable brand images to supporting local economies, the benefits are numerous. Even still, with prices ranging from about $100,000 for small businesses to up to $1 million+ for larger businesses, the cost of a C&I system can seem daunting initially. By working with a reputable financier, you can start saving money for your business on day one with a C&I solar system. With that in mind, we conducted a Q&A with Sustainable Capital Finance (SCF) to learn more about their company and financial offerings.
[ES] Tell us more about SCF – what's the background of your company? When and why were you founded? Where are you located?
[SCF] Sustainable Capital Finance is a power purchase agreement (PPA) and takeout financier of C&I solar, solar-plus-storage & electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging projects. (EnergySage note: "takeout" financing is long-term financing that initially replaces the upfront short-term financing used to pay for the system.) SCF, headquartered in San Jose, CA, comprises experts specializing in structured finance and renewable energy development. Founded in 2012, we've transacted over $150 million in commercial-scale projects alongside a network of 300+ solar installation and development partners.
[ES] What's SCF's mission?
[SCF] Our approach to solar finance was simple: determine a vastly underserved sector of the market, identify challenges to bankability, and dedicate ourselves to creating a solution. The sector was C&I, and the challenges were credit, transaction costs, and lack of industry deal flow. Sustainability initiatives can now be financed affordably and reliably, regardless of organization type and rating status, efficiently…just how it should be.
[ES] What differentiates SCF from other solar financing options for businesses or nonprofits?
[SCF] At SCF, we offer real-time pricing through our cloud-based financing software, the SCF Suite, meaning you can quickly and easily see what your rate and payments will be with SCF. We also have the capability to underwrite non-rated, privately-held entities. SCF's multi-year collaboration with NextEra Energy Distributed Generation, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, gives us a reliable energy partner. The joint development agreement provides EV charging, PPA, and takeout solutions for targeted commercial, industrial, municipal, school, and nonprofit solar, storage, and EV charging projects, with rated and unrated off-takers. The initiative is focused on projects as small as 100 kilowatts (kW) to as large as 20 megawatts (MW).
[ES] Tell us about SCF Suite - how does that work?
[SCF] The Suite provides a centralized dashboard for integrators to evaluate solar PPA project economics and for SCF to perform diligence for, evaluate, structure, transact, and manage solar, solar-plus-storage, and EV charging projects. Automation in the Suite is designed to simplify transaction workflows in the industry and allow its users to support and expand their businesses without depending on older, inefficient, or less automated methods, platforms, or tools.
[ES] What are your solar + storage PPA options?
[SCF] Currently, SCF offers energy storage as an addition to traditional solar projects where the energy storage savings is accretive. If energy storage savings improve the overall project economics, we can support the additional costs and operations, maintenance, and asset management throughout the PPA term. Energy storage also increases flexibility in future years for additional savings to the customer through demand charge reduction, time-of-use (TOU) management, and other use cases.
SCF currently does not provide loan options. We structure all transactions under a third-party ownership structure.
[ES] During the installation process, when does SCF require payments?
[SCF] SCF funds 100 percent of the project costs, including development, permitting, and construction. Our milestone disbursement schedule is the disbursement mechanism to pay for the project costs throughout the construction cycle. During this time, the customer is not responsible for any capital outlay. Once the system is energized and "Commercial Operation Date" is achieved, the customer will accrue savings from the solar installation, and after the first month, the customer will receive their first PPA invoice. These PPA invoices will be monthly through the length of the negotiated term, typically 15 to 30 years.
[ES] How do your C&I projects differ from your nonprofit projects?
[SCF] Very little, in fact. SCF built the SCF Suite and our financing solutions to be standardized across different types of customers, varying project sizes, and in different markets with different incentives.
[ES] Why should companies and nonprofits choose to work with SCF when financing their solar or solar-plus-storage systems?
[SCF] SCF has successfully deployed over $150 million to develop and finance projects for schools, municipalities, religious institutions, and other organizations. In financing projects as small as 40 kW and as large as 20 MW portfolios, we utilize a standardized approach to expedite transaction timelines and mitigate risk throughout the development process.
[ES] What do you think are the most important questions for companies and nonprofits to ask when assessing solar financing options?
What are the anticipated savings, and what are the assumptions made when calculating those savings?
What are the end-of-term options?
What is their past experience, local experience, overall expertise, and Statement of Qualifications?
To explore solar options for your business, sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace today. Once we understand your goals and energy usage, we'll help develop an initial project design and connect you to our network of pre-screened installers if you're ready to go solar. If you have specific preferences about financing your system–whether through SCF or another financier–make a note in your account so we can connect you with installers that will meet your needs.