The projects will have total capacity of about 100 megawatts and are expected to cost $130 million to build
By Luis Garcia
Carlyle Group Inc. has acquired eight solar projects in Maine as the asset manager seeks to capitalize on New England’s expanding renewable-energy market.
The projects are expected to cost more than $130 million to build and will deliver 100 megawatts of solar-power capacity, enough to supply 19,000 Maine homes, Carlyle said. Construction on the projects started in June, and the total expected cost includes what has already been spent on their development.
The Washington firm is buying the projects from BNRG Renewables Ltd., an Irish developer and operator of solar-power sites.
“There’s a lot of policy support in terms of new renewable generation in [New England’s] market,” said Pooja Goyal, a managing director and co-head of Carlyle’s infrastructure group who led its investment. She added that Carlyle could make more such deals in the region, possibly with BNRG again.
“This is just our first foray in that market,” Ms. Goyal said.
Acadia Renewable Energy LLC, recently formed by Carlyle, will own the projects but won’t manage them. Instead, a joint venture between BNRG and Dirigo Solar LLC, the Portland, Maine-based co-developer of the sites, will manage their completion while BNRG will operate them. Construction is expected to finish next summer, Ms. Goyal said.
BNRG didn’t retain any equity in the projects.
More private capital is flowing into the U.S. renewable-energy sector as state and local governments strive to replace fossil fuels with cleaner sources of energy. New England is among the regions most aggressively making this effort.
Since 2013, roughly 6,800 megawatts of regional capacity derived mostly from coal, oil and nuclear power has been retired or will be under current plans for the coming years, regional power grid operator ISO New England Inc. said in a recent report. The not-for-profit organization, which seeks to make power supply more reliable and less costly, added that coal- and oil-fired plants accounted for less than 0.5% of regional electricity consumption last year.
The solar projects that Carlyle has acquired will feed their output to utility companies Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power under 20-year purchase agreements. While the projects will sell all the electricity they produce, they won’t be liable if their output falls below the contracted amount, Ms. Goyal said.
“If it’s a very cloudy day or if your system breaks down, we’re not on the hook to go and buy that electricity in the market to deliver it to the utilities,” she said.
The deal is the second announced so far though Carlyle’s renewable-energy fund. In an earlier transaction, Carlyle made a $100 million commitment to form Cardinal Renewables in the U.S., which seeks to acquire and develop solar projects nationwide. Carlyle made the deal alongside Alchemy Renewable Energy, a portfolio company of Atlanta-based investment firm Monarch Private Capital.
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