Duke Energy acquires large stake in REC Solar

California-based solar installer REC Solar has sold a large stake of its commercial PV business to Duke Energy, one of the largest utility companies in the U.S.

Duke Energy has not disclosed exactly how much it has paid for the stake in REC Solar, but did reveal it plans to spend up to $225 in purchasing commercial PV contracts completed by REC Solar.

The move from Duke Energy follows in the footsteps of previous investments by big energy companies in the solar market, with Edison International, NRG Energy, E.ON and NextEra each hoovering up solar installers, developers and manufacturers in recent months.

For REC Solar, the sale comes a year after Sunrun purchased its residential solar business, and its CEO Allen Bucknam said in a press statement that the investment will help REC Solar streamline its contract and sales process and gather more customers, more quickly.

In the U.S., commercial rooftop solar contract discussions are often lengthy affairs, often taking between six to 12 months to finalize appropriate financing suitable for each customer. With Duke Energy’s involvement, REC Solar will operate and maintain the solar panels installed atop a commercial rooftop, while Duke Energy will own the system and the contract, which typically runs for a 20-year period.

Duke Energy’s pledge to purchase $225 million power purchase agreements (PPAs) from REC Solar is likely to mean a more standardized approach to financing, enabling a streamlining of the contract process that will prove more attractive to small- and medium-size businesses that have currently shied away from rooftop PV investments.

REC Solar will then offer customers this simplified financing template, which will include the option to lease a solar system. "By lowering upfront costs and reducing the complexity of going solar, our aim is to accelerate commercial solar growth and provide end-to-end energy solutions to businesses, governments and educational institutions across the U.S.," said Bucknam.

"The Duke Energy relationship realizes our strategy to be the one-stop shop for commercial solar by securing a predictable and streamlined customer financing process."

Duke Energy has steadily increased its commercial renewable energy portfolio over the past two years and now boasts around 1.8 GW of installed solar and wind capacity across the 12 U.S. states, and has invested more than $4 billion in utility-scale renewable energy projects around the country.