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Upstart solar financing outfits Spruce, Ygrene secure growth investments

Solar financing firms Spruce Finance Inc. and Ygrene Energy Fund Inc. have secured funding from separate investors in a push to expand their residential- and commercial-scale solar project portfolios.

Spruce, which offers and arranges financing for small-scale solar and energy efficiency projects, secured a $105.4 million syndicated loan from specialty lender Investec Inc. and Silicon Valley Bank.

Separately, Ygrene, a provider of property assessed clean energy financing for residential and commercial solar projects, received a $95 million direct investment from private equity firm Lightyear Capital LLC.

The investments represent a layered bet by investors on two separate solar financing methods.

Indeed, for Spruce, its loan and power purchase agreement platforms give small-scale customers an ability to access capital from Spruce or third-party investors to finance solar and energy efficiency projects.

Investec, which has been particularly active lending to residential solar service providers, including Sunrun Inc., believes that its syndicated loan model could be the right fit for shops like Spruce.

"As the residential solar financing markets evolve, the syndicated loan market has established itself as the 'go-to' market option for quality sponsors such as Spruce," Investec North America Power & Infrastructure Finance Group co-heads Michael Pantelogianis and Ralph Cho said in a news release.

Ygrene, meanwhile, has taken another route through PACE financing, which effectively nests the cost of a solar installation in a customer's property tax bill.

The PACE market recently saw the completion of its largest deal to date: a $10 million financing arrangement led by CleanFund Commercial PACE Capital Inc. for a 5-MW California solar installation.

That deal may have some private equity investors like Lightyear feeling more bullish on growth in the PACE market by taking positions in specialty shops like Ygrene, which deal exclusively with PACE financing structures.

"The demand for affordable clean energy property improvements is increasing, and we see tremendous opportunity in the PACE sector. We look forward to working with the company to continue its record of strong growth," Lightyear managing partner Mark Vassallo said in a news release.