In this edition’s MintzTech Connect, we feature East Light Partners, a renewable energy development company targeting the opportunity for community and utility solar projects in the Northeast United States.
Wendy De Wolf and Jamie Fordyce, who founded East Light in 2016, are driven by the principle that renewable energy can, should, and will dominate our energy mix into the future. The company is making this transition happen through the origination and development of clean energy projects that benefit communities, investors, and our environment over the long term.
East Light was an early mover in New York’s ascendant clean energy market. As the state moved to rollout the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, the company began development on several projects that would become some of the first operating under the state’s new community solar and utility-scale solar frameworks. Pairing knowledge of key policy and technology trends with a keen understanding of the development cycle, East Light is building a strong and growing track record of successful projects.
As a mission-driven public benefit corporation, East Light has a commitment beyond the bottom line. The company has worked with local stakeholders and advocacy groups, such as Scenic Hudson, on the development of best practices in renewable energy siting for the protection of ecological, agricultural, and scenic value, and has implemented those principles into its projects. As a result, East Light’s approach to clean energy development has attracted investment from pure-play financial investors, strategic partners, and the impact investing community alike.
In May of this year, East Light sold one of New York’s first utility-scale solar facilities, ELP Stillwater Solar, a 27 MW project located in the Town of Stillwater, New York, to Goldman Sachs Renewable Power. The project is East Light’s largest to date, will generate 35,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually, and will sell renewable energy credits to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority under a long-term contract to assist in the attainment of New York’s nation-leading climate and energy goals. East Light followed this transaction with a sale of a portfolio of New York community solar projects to Vitol in July. Community solar projects deliver the economic benefits of solar energy directly to local residents while leveraging economies of scale. The portfolio included ELP Stanford Solar, a 7.5 MW project located on a reclaimed sand and gravel mine in Dutchess County, New York; ELP Union Vale Solar, a 3 MW project on the Union Vale Town Landfill in Dutchess County, New York; and ELP Ghent Solar, a 5 MW project located on vacant industrial land in Columbia County, New York. In addition to its project sale transactions, East Light closed on a revolving debt facility with the New York Green Bank in May 2020. The $3 million bridge loan facility finances late stage development costs for East Light’s community solar and utility-scale solar projects in New York State.
These projects were developed under East Light Capital Fund I (ELCF I), an investment vehicle for solar power assets in the Northeast. Since 2017, ELCF I has originated and sold nine projects, totaling 65 MW, with an additional four in development, totaling 50 MW. With ELCF I fully committed, East Light is currently raising its second fund, targeting an initial close in September. East Light aims to develop 300 MW of utility- and community-scale solar over the next five years under this new vehicle.
“Despite the challenges of Covid-19, 2020 has been an incredibly productive year for East Light,” commented East Light co-founder Wendy De Wolf. “We are looking forward to building off the success of our Fund I projects and bringing more renewable energy to the Northeast through Fund II.”