One of the biggest U.S. solar developers will now be owned by a European investment firm.
Cypress Creek Renewables, which grew out of North Carolina but is now headquartered in Santa Monica, California, will be acquired by EQT Infrastructure, part of a sustainable investment firm that manages 67 billion euros ($79.2 billion) in assets. The deal is a sign of investor appetite not just for solar projects and the revenue they generate but also for the development shops that create those projects.
"We have an equity investor behind us who is seeking to grow our business across each of our divisions," Cypress Creek CEO Sarah Slusser told Canary Media. "They’re investing in us as their U.S. renewables platform."
The sale caps off a dramatic turnaround for Cypress Creek. In early 2019, the company resorted to mass layoffs and selling off several projects in order to stay afloat. Then investors and the board brought in a new management team led by Slusser and colleagues from Point Reyes Energy Partners.
Slusser's management team pulled out of the engineering, procurement and construction business, opting instead to focus on four operating units: development, operations and maintenance (O&M), asset management, and the fleet of operating projects. Its solar O&M business is now one of the largest in the country, Slusser said; the company's operating fleet totals 1.6 gigawatts and the development pipeline has hit 8 gigawatts.
In fall 2020, Singapore-based Temasek and New York-based HPS Investment Partners converted their debt into 100 percent ownership of Cypress Creek. Then the company launched a sales process dubbed "Condor," which attracted "tremendous interest," Slusser said.
EQT emerged as the winner; Slusser did not disclose the sale price. The close of the transaction is still awaiting regulatory approval.
Once complete, the backing of EQT will give Cypress Creek the wherewithal to own more solar plants for the long haul, Slusser said. The developer will also look at merger and acquisition opportunities, adjacent markets such as standalone energy storage, and new types of contracts for the power its projects generate.
Cypress Creek develops projects in competitive power markets and regulated states. It has cut several deals to supply clean power to large companies including Starbucks.
"The demand out there that’s created by the corporates is a real positive for the sector," Slusser said. Corporations have become a major force in U.S. solar and wind power project development, responsible for about 10.6 GW of contracted capacity last year, according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance trade group.
European energy companies have shown an interest in American clean energy development. Big names such as Enel, EDF, Shell, BP and Equinor have acquired companies and developed projects stateside. But EQT is not an energy giant. The energy sector accounts for only 6 percent of its investments through the end of 2020, which are heavily skewed toward companies in Europe.
Surveying the full gamut of economic opportunities across Europe and the rest of the globe, EQT chose to jump into the U.S. large-scale solar market.
(Article image courtesy of Red Zeppelin)
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