Corporate solar deals are not just for tech giants anymore, and now they’re cropping up in new parts of the U.S.
Inside Organic Valley’s Unique Corporate Solar Model
Organic Valley, a 2,000-farm cooperative based in Wisconsin, sits at the intersection of two rising trends in the solar space: corporate customers innovating more ways to purchase renewables and an increase in solar power across the Midwest.
In August and September, Organic Valley and Canadian developer BluEarth Renewables brought online three solar projects totaling 12.67 megawatts, helping the cooperative reach a 100 percent renewables goal it set in 2017. But in a unique configuration for corporate projects, those installations are part of a larger 32-megawatt portfolio of projects in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota that will also serve more than 20,000 customers in the Midwest.
Organic Valley, BluEarth and the initial developer partner, OneEnergy, worked with 13 Midwestern municipal utilities as well as several other corporate partners on a total of 10 solar projects that provide electricity or renewable energy credits to the various partners.
In the past, large-scale corporate renewables deals have largely favored power-purchase agreements with one offtaker. Recently, companies have been engaging with renewables in more unique ways: Facebook invested tax equity in a Texas solar project, Google engineered a reverse auction to sign more PPAs, and companies including Gap and Bloomberg joined up on a small-scale aggregation deal.
Organic Valley, which already has renewables investments, was also looking for a new prototype.
“We needed a new model to be able to get to 100 percent renewables,” said Stanley Minnick, the company’s energy services and technology manager. “[We] needed to find partners that were able to innovate and go beyond…what [had] proven itself as a replicable model.”
The result could become yet another template for corporates acquiring renewables, a stable of buyers that now make up a significant portion of overall utility-scale solar demand. This year analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables expect corporate solar deals to account for nearly 14 percent of overall utility-scale installations, surging to about 29 percent in 2020.