Let There Be Sun!

NCB provides financing for construction of solar energy system at Denver International Airport

If you’re one of the 50 million people who’ll fly in and out of Denver International Airport (DIA) this year, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of one of the country’s newest and largest solar energy projects.

Earlier this year, as part of a comprehensive construction financing program, NCB provided $11 million to renewable energy supplier MMA Renewable Ventures to build the 2-megawatt solar project at DIA, the nation’s fifth busiest airport.

More than 9,200 flat, black solar panels, covering 7.5 acres near the airport’s main entrance, will capture the sun’s energy to help DIA reduce its electricity consumption from the grid. The large-scale photovoltaic solar project is expected to generate 3.3 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity per year for the airport. It will also cut carbon emissions by an estimated 5 million pounds annually.

The DIA project marks NCB’s first venture in solar energy financing.

"But it won’t be the last," says Andrew Kho, Managing Director at NCB. "Rising oil prices have made renewable energy projects a priority. There’s a lot of support from NCB’s senior executives to move forward on projects like this."

MMA Renewable Ventures will own the solar power system. Under a long-term Power Purchase Agreement, MMA will sell the solar-generated power to DIA at a rate less than the airport would otherwise pay.

At an Aug. 19 ceremony marking the solar panel project, Denver mayor John Hickenlooper saluted the airport’s renewable energy project. "This installation at Denver International Airport fits with our Greenprint Denver action agenda for sustainability and our pledge to do all that we can to reduce our carbon footprint," Hickenlooper told the crowd. "We are proud to have such a large and prominently placed solar power system at DIA. This installation is both a symbol and a practical example of the city’s commitment to renewable energy."

Financing the project

Project developer MMA Renewable Ventures says it approached NCB in recognition of the bank’s ability to supply innovative financial services and its history of community involvement.

"We decided to work with NCB because the program we crafted to deploy the 2 MW solar-power array required creativity and flexibility," says Matt Cheney, CEO of MMA Renewable Ventures. "There was very little precedent in the marketplace for the solar project we were creating -- or the requisite financing mechanism. The NCB team took the time to understand our business and our project plan."

Cheney says his MMA team was "extremely thoughtful in designing and constructing a facility that could address the unique features of a solar construction and permanent debt program."

In addition, the NCB loan facility needed to layer onto an existing tax equity fund, posing limits that MMA had to tackle.

"NCB was flexible and solution-oriented," Cheney says. "Inevitably, when creating a complex facility, unexpected obstacles emerge. The NCB team worked with us to solve these issues and deliver a funding program that is efficient and scalable."

Others involved in the DIA solar panel project include:

  • World Water & Solar Technologies, which installed the solar panel system and will provide ongoing operations and maintenance services. The ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays employ a single-axis tracking system, comprised of Sharp solar panels, that follows the sun during the day for greater efficiency and energy production.

  • Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest investor-owned public utility, which will buy renewable energy credits from the solar project to help the utility comply with Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES). Under the state’s RES mandate, utilities are required to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

"There’s a lot of potential for future projects like this," says Kho "It’s an exciting time to be at NCB."


If your company is seeking financing for a renewable energy project, contact (West Coast) NCB’s Andrew Kho at (510) 496-2224 or ( East Coast) Matt Wright at (703) 302- 8095.