Alternative energy has become a sizeable industry in North Carolina, with estimated full-time employment of more than 15,000, and it also has become a steady source of customers for banks.
North Carolina-based banks put tens of millions of dollars into solar and other alternative energy projects, mostly in the last couple of years.
The company stepped up that activity after seeing what a 1.7-megawatt solar array could do atop its corporate data center on Tryon Road. Electricity is by far the largest cost for data centers, says Michael Nark, CEO of Power Analytics in Raleigh, whose software that monitors electricity use in real time.
As big power users, they’ve also become a frequent target for solar projects.
Banks’ financing is a mix of loans and equity investment, though they don’t always give the exact breakdown. Lending is banks’ core business, of course, but state and federal tax credits for alternative energy have also drawn in investors looking to offset tax liability. Solar developers say financial institutions are a leading source of equity financing, if not the leading source.
Charlotte-based Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), the nation’s second-largest in terms of assets, says it put $20 billion into alternative energy between 2007 and 2012. That includes $9.4 billion into buildings and other projects with a focus on energy efficiency. It also includes $1.9 billion in wind-powered generation projects and $1.9 billion into solar projects.
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