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After assembling renewables team, Goldman unit plans solar acquisitions in 2019

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Goldman Sachs Asset Management's renewable power group is poised to be an active acquirer of solar assets in 2019.

File photo source: Salt River Project

Goldman Sachs Asset Management LP has spent two years building its renewable power group and plans to acquire up to 1 GW of solar assets in 2019, according to several people familiar with its plans.

The asset management arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. established the renewables team in 2016, initially staffing up with internal hires. Jon Yoder, a managing director who has been at Goldman since 2005, was recruited to head the group.

In 2017, Goldman Sachs Asset Management began tapping external talent for the group, and following several hires at the vice president-level, the team has grown to 17 members. People familiar with the group's strategy say they do not expect any additional high-level hires in coming months.

Of the group's 10 vice presidents, six are on the group's investing team and based in New York, including internal hires Moe Hanifi, Jordan Meer and Gregory Roer, multiple industry sources told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The other three, Michael Conti, Ashlee Effler and John Moran, joined from T-Rex Group, Inc., RGS Energy and sPower, respectively, in 2018.

A quartet of vice presidents on the team's asset management side based in West Palm Beach, Fla., includes three TerraForm Power Inc. veterans: Ricardo Fabré, David Fernandez and Pedro Garcia Hrdy, as well as Mark Saunders, formerly the CEO of Focal Line Solar Inc., a startup with offices in the U.S. and Ukraine.

Fernandez and Garcia both worked at SunEdison Inc. before moving to its then-yieldco, TerraForm, while Fabré previously worked at SolarCity Inc.

The remaining six members of the group are all associates. Officials at Goldman Sachs in New York declined to comment.

Goldman poised for solar buying spree

In what will be its second year as a project buyer, the renewable power group plans to continue to focus exclusively on solar projects in North America, with a preference for utility-scale assets, according to people familiar with Goldman Sachs Asset Management's plans.

Projects in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Canada will be considered as the team aims to purchase projects totaling at least 500 MW and as much as 1 GW in 2019, several people familiar with Goldman's plans said. The group began acquiring assets in 2018, purchasing solar projects totaling approximately 420 MW in three separate deals.

Most recently, the group closed its acquisition of portfolio companies SunTap I and SunTap II, known collectively as SunTap, from KKR & Co. The Greentech Capital Advisors-run auction for the assets wrapped in October.

SunTap I comprises four projects totaling 88 MW in California, while SunTap II's 105-MW portfolio includes five facilities in California, as well as one asset in Arizona.

In June, Goldman's renewable group agreed to acquire a 204-MW portfolio of distributed solar assets in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont from Marina Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Folsom, N.J.-based South Jersey Industries Inc., in a $350 million deal.

The renewable power group acquired the solar assets for $287.4 million, paying an additional $62.6 million to acquire solar renewable energy credits associated with the projects.

The group also purchased a 24-MWdc solar portfolio of community solar assets in southeastern Massachusetts from BlueWave Solar and Morgan Stanley subsidiary MS Solar Solutions Corp.