SunEdison Raises $161M for PV Farms

Following SunEdison’s announcement last week that it will build what it claims will be, at the time of construction, the largest photovoltaic farm in the U.S., the company now says it’s getting more cash to fuel its ambitious plans. The Beltsville, Md.-headquartered solar service operator says it has just closed $161 million in financing — $131 million in private equity and $30 million in debt financing. The round included Greylock Partners, HSH Nordbank AG, Applied Ventures, Black River Commodity Clean Energy Investment Fund, Black River Asset Management, MissionPoint Capital Partners and Allco Renewable Energy Limited.

This round was raised over the last six months, during which SunEdison signed some big deals with utilities all over North America, including the agreement with Duke Energy inked last week for the power from their largest PV array which will cost an estimated $173 million to build. Meanwhile, SunEdison has projects in progress around the world, including a new manufacturing facility in Spain, construction a large PV farm in Canada, and a partnership with Wal-Mart in Hawaii.

And while many of these photovoltaic installations are big, these tens-of-megawatts projects are small in comparison to the 500 MW solar projects taking shape in the desert. Can PV systems be built as utility-sized plants? Optisolar, a thin-film solar startup, thinks so. The startup is now trying large-scale photovoltaics with the development of a huge 550 megawatt PV farm in San Luis Obispo, Calif. This installation will dwarf any other PV installation on the continent and, if built, prove that cheaply made thin-film solar can scale. Construction is scheduled to start in 2010.

Meanwhile, SunEdison has its hands plenty full with utility contracts. The renewable portfolio standard that requires many utilities to buy a minimum percentage of their power from renewable sources is creating a lot of business for the likes of SunEdison. Now they just need to keep getting solar panels online.