SunPower's utility-scale solar project pipeline, totaling 4.7 gigawatts across 16 states, was just acquired by Clearway Energy Group — a new company formed by Global Infrastructure Partners, in its first official week as a business.
GIP manages over $40 billion in assets. Financial details of this deal were not disclosed.
As GTM previously reported, SunPower has completely committed to distributed generation. SunPower's CEO Tom Werner believes that the firm is pivoting away from a mature utility market to an emerging distributed solar market where it "can be a pioneer and an innovator" as it strives to be more like a "solar energy services company."
SunPower expected to sell its pipeline in the second half of this year, which puts the Clearway acquisition right on time.
Earlier this year, GIP announced the acquisition of NRG Energy's renewable energy business. More specifically, GIP acquired NRG's controlling interest in its renewable energy development platform and its 2.4-gigawatt operations and maintenance business. GIP also purchased NRG Yield, which holds a portfolio of wind, solar and natural-gas generation, with a total operating capacity of 5.1 gigawatts.
The sale officially closed on August 31 for $1.348 billion in cash. It also removes $6.7 billion of debt from NRG’s balance sheet. Clearway Energy Group was formed as a result of the NRG Renewables and NRG Yield purchases, with financial support from GIP.
Clearway is now one of the largest clean energy developers in the U.S., with assets that include 2.8 gigawatts of wind, 1.1 gigawatts of utility PV and more than 300 megawatts of distributed and community solar, according to a release. Clearway also has an 8.9-gigawatt development pipeline and provides O&M and asset management for 4.1 gigawatts of renewable power.
The utility-scale solar market faces the headwinds of steep drops in power-purchase agreement prices and tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic modules. SunPower CEO Tom Werner believes that larger firms with lower cost of capital and longer investment horizons will win contracts in utility-scale solar development. Companies presumably more like GIP — although SunPower is backed by oil and gas giant Total.
Scott Stephens, director of technology development at Clearway, said this was a "big day" for the newly autonomous developer.
“From homeowners to world-class businesses, and the utilities that service them, today’s energy consumers are increasingly looking for clean energy that’s reliable and affordable,” said Craig Cornelius, Clearway Energy Group’s CEO, who previously led NRG's renewable energy business. “Clearway was built from the ground up for these customers. We have the scale, the capacity and the infrastructure it takes to provide the energy they need from day one.”