Green

SunEdison raises $161 million for solar services and installing

SunEdison, a solar services company based in Beltsville, Md., has taken $131 million in venture funding and $30 million in debt to finance its rapid expansion and ongoing projects, including some of the largest solar installations in the United States.

In the booming market for solar installations, there is a profusion of different business models, serving markets from residential to business and military, and selling or leasing panels, or simply selling their electricity. SunEdison often handles the up-front costs of installation for its large corporate and institutional clients, so the hefty amount of this particular funding is encouraging, but not terribly surprising.

Depending on how you count funding, it’s not even the largest to date. Recurrent Energy, a West Coast startup that has its own large projects, can tap into some $200 million from Morgan Stanley for its projects, although the money is not a direct investment in the company. Other companies have their own, smaller financing agreements to help fund their operations.

SunEdison’s projects to date include a 16 megawatt solar farm near Charlotte, N.C., which may be the biggest solar photovoltaic deployment in the country when it’s completed. It won’t be the largest in North America, though — that distinction will probably be held by the 19 megawatt farm SunEdison is building in Ontario, Canada. The company also does work for Wal-Mart, Whole Foods Market, and a number of other large corporations.

The bigger story here is SunEdison’s role as a facilitator. Projects taken on by SunEdison for other companies and utilities help create ecosystems of smaller companies where the installation is taking place, and pull in solar panels and other equipment from companies around the world. One example of another up-and-coming solar company benefiting from the projects is Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ: ESLR), a thin-film manufacturer that has agreed to sell $500 million worth of its panels to SunEdison by 2011.

Both the $131 million venture financing and the $30 million in debt were provided by Greylock Partners, HSH Nordbank AG, Applied Ventures, Black River Commodity Clean Energy Investment Fund, MissionPoint Capital Partners, and Allco Renewable Energy Limited.