Lightsource BP Closes Big Texas Solar Deal Despite Coronavirus Chill

Despite the renewable energy industry’s
concerns about the impacts
of COVID-19, some deals are still
getting done. Lightsource BP, a United Kingdom-based developer
backed by oil major BP, said Thursday it had closed on a $250
million financing package for a 260-megawatt solar project in
Texas.

Kevin Smith, Lightsource BP’s Americas CEO, pitched an
optimistic outlook for the project and the company’s global
development plans despite the uncertainty related to
COVID-19. Lightsource BP is active in European markets like
Italy and Spain, where coronavirus has shut down daily life.

“We view solar energy projects and energy supply generally as
an essential business for U.S. and worldwide markets,” Smith told
GTM on Thursday. “It’s important to keep our focus on a clean
energy future.”

The company has stood behind its existing global plans to
install 10 gigawatts of solar through 2023, with about 4 gigawatts
of that in the United States.  

As for the Texas project, already under construction, “social
distancing issues are obviously key,” Smith said. But Lightsource
BP believes it will be allowed to continue construction because
its current workforce of 125 will be spread over the project’s
1,500 acres northeast of Dallas. Eventually the project will
employ 300, with Swinerton Renewable Energy managing
construction.

Swinerton has precautions in place, disallowing workers from
assembling in groups for coffee breaks, meetings or transportation
around the site, Smith said. Texas’ Department of Health and
Human Services had recorded 161 cases of the coronavirus in the
state and three deaths from the disease as of Thursday.  

The renewables industry is only beginning to grapple with
slipped project timelines resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Industry groups including the Solar Energy Industries Association
and the American Wind Energy Association
are working
 in Washington, D.C., to secure tax credit
extensions and flexibility requirements for tax equity. 

Smith said he’d like to see the energy industry deemed an
essential workforce, which would allow project construction to
continue even in the face of mandated shutdowns. San Francisco’s

“shelter in place” order
 counts electrical and
construction work as essential, but does not specify whether that
includes renewables projects (which, in San Francisco, would
likely only refer to residential solar).

BP, which recently increased
its stake in Lightsource BP,
 will transact power from the
Texas solar project through its trading arm.

Backed by BP in a time of uncertainty

Europe’s fossil fuel giants are growing their bets in the
power sector
as a hedge against low oil prices and business
changes due to climate change.

BP hadn’t been as aggressive in these efforts as peers like
Royal Dutch Shell and Total, but the company
recently announced a goal
to hit net zero emissions for its own
operations as well as those from its products by 2050. Solar is
likely to factor significantly in the major’s plans to get
there.


BP’s backing
 provides Lightsource with significant
“financial muscle,” Smith said, and the oil giant’s recent
decision to increase its stake has piqued more lender and investor
interest in the solar company.

Lightsource BP hopes to reach financial close on nearly 1
gigawatt of projects in the U.S. this year, though the coronavirus
may complicate those efforts. The developer put about 400 megawatts
into construction in 2019, a year when the U.S. solar market grew
23 percent, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Lightsource BP Closes Big Texas Solar Deal Despite Coronavirus Chill