Q&A: Reactivate on the ‘tremendousopportunity’ for US community solar

With community solar capacity in the US on track to more than double in the next five years,utility-scale project developer Invenergy is set to ramp up its presence in the segment through anew joint venture (JV) focused on serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities whilepartnering with minority- and women-owned contractors.Invenergy joined forces with investment platform Lafayette Square to launch Reactivate earlierthis year, with the JV targetting the development of 3GW of renewables and facilitating training for2,500 underserved workers by 2030.The formation of the business comes after the US added a record 957MW of community solar lastyear, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, which forecasts that anadditional 4.5GW of community PV capacity will be deployed in the country in the next five years.Since Reactivate was set up in January, the JV announced the appointment last month ofInvenergy VP of renewable construction Utopia Hill as its head of engineering, procurement andconstruction (EPC).As Reactivate ramps up its operations, PV Tech Premium talked to Hill about the challenges thebusiness will have to overcome to reach its 3GW target and its strategy of collaborating withsmaller contractors.PV Tech Premium: How big is the opportunity to install more community solar across theUS?Utopia Hill: If you take a look back at some of the policies that are being proposed, communitysolar has tremendous opportunity within the US.

On the Reactivate side for us, it’s looking at the community solar market, but also ensuring thatwe’re looking at the impact for community solar. So we have a heavy emphasis on trying to makesure that the savings that can be generated from community solar projects are received by low-and moderate-income households. We also want to make sure that we are contracting withwomen- and minority-owned businesses, and that we’re working on workforce development sothat people from underrepresented groups as well people in energy transition communities haveaccess to these solar jobs.Would you say there is significant demand for solar among some communities thatperhaps haven’t had the opportunity to install the technology?There may have been financial or credit barriers for people in lower- and moderate-incomehouseholds to be able to participate in this market. And there is much more of a discussionaround equity and inclusion in the energy market space. And that’s why we’re taking a very activeapproach and ensuring that this new energy transition really is open to and available to everyone.Which states are you going to focus on initially?Right now we’re really looking across the entire country. Of course, there are some states justdue to their policy initiatives or programmes that they already have in place and are moredeveloped that we’re looking at. But we really see this as a nationwide approach.What challenges will Reactivate have to overcome to reach the target of installing 3GW by2030?There are certain things around infrastructure, how we work with various utilities for integration ofcommunity solar projects into their grids, working with various subscriber networks to identify thecustomers and the clientele for the community solar project.Community solar will be in probably more populous environments, and even if we look at our ruralcommunities, it may be closer to population centres. And with that comes discussions with variousregulatory agencies on how we can incorporate community solar into those markets. I think thoseare some of the challenges as you have with any new tech. How do you integrate it, especially ifyou go into certain areas where people may not have seen that technology before.How will your EPC work on community solar installations differ from utility-scale plants?When we’re looking at community solar, we definitely have the options and we’re looking atground-mounted systems that are very similar to utility-scale solar, but we’re also exploringcarports, we’re also exploring rooftop installations. So that’s where you deviate a bit from utilityscale.Also having the subscriber system. On a utility-scale project, you may have a PPA with someofftaker or counterparties, whereas in the community solar market, you’re directly facing theconsumers, you’re giving them immediate savings to their energy bills, but you also have to makesure that you’re maintaining that relationship with those consumers as well.One thing that I find is a unique opportunity is that with a smaller scale project it allows you tohave relationships with some smaller organisations and businesses that may not be able to comein and build a 100MW or 200MW project, but if you can work with them and help them to develop,they can work on a 1MW, 3MW or 5MW project.Are people aware of the bill savings they could receive by subscribing to community solarprojects?There are some states where community solar is much more prevalent. People understand thatthey can see savings on their energy bills by 10% or more per month. So in those markets, I think

it will be a lot easier to subscribe people. I think that in the newer markets and states that are currently looking at community solarimplementations that there will be an aspect where we have to educate people on, this is whatcommunity solar is, this is how it will be reflected on their current electricity bills and what thepayment structure will be. Some states have consolidated billing, some states do not. So therewill be an education aspect to that. And that’s why companies such as ourselves or others look forvery strong subscriber managers to help us to educate the public and the potential subscribers toour projects.

About Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square is a commercially scaled investment platform built for and enhanced by our commitment to impact. We deploy long term capital alongside impactful services to local communities across America through our credit, real estate, and renewables divisions.  

Our mission is to be the leading provider of impact driven capital working toward a more inclusive economy. For more information about Lafayette Square, please visit www.lafayettesquare.com.

About Invenergy

We are innovators building a sustainable world. Invenergy and its affiliated companies develop, own, and operate large-scale sustainable energy generation and storage facilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Invenergy's home office is located in Chicago, and it has regional development offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Poland and Scotland. Invenergy has successfully developed more than 29,000 megawatts of projects that are in operation, construction or contracted, including wind, solar, transmission, and natural gas power generation facilities as well as advanced energy storage projects. For more information, please visit www.invenergy.com.

Media Contact for Reactivate:

Shree Dhond/ Doug Allen

Dukas Linden Public Relations