The Long Island wind turbine is just one example of the types ofwind and solar power projects for which Venice-based Sunlight caneither help developers secure financing, provide legal andregulatory advisory services―or both, according toRachael Wexler, Sunlight CEO and co-founder. Wexler is a formerpartner at the Century City office of law firm Goodwin Procter whostepped into the CEO role at Sunlight in November. She tellsGlobeSt.com that Sunlight's mission―which includes afocus on the solar potential of commercial and industrialbuildings―aims to turn the hype of renewable energy'spromise into reality. "We believe the best way to do that is tofacilitate more financing for renewable energy projects," theSunlight CEO says.

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Before establishing Sunlight, Le Blanc was the CEO/president ofOctober Financial, a financial advisory firm, and before that was avice president of Kane & Co., an investment banking firm.Wexler specialized in private equity, venture capital, mergers andother corporate finance-related matters at Goodwin Procter, whereshe also advised clients in the alternative energy and recyclingindustries. Before that, she was an SVP at US Bancorp Libra, aninvestment banking and brokerage firm. In addition to its expertisein finance, legal and regulatory advisory services, Sunlight hasassembled a team of advisers with expertise in solar technology,environmental consulting services and sustainable buildingpractices. The company has also established preferred relationshipswith lenders and is pursuing additional such relationships.

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Wexler notes that nearly all of Sunlight's referrals have comefrom financing sources. These lenders "get projects pitched tothem, and they think the projects could be successful, but thepeople who are pitching them don't have all of the pieces puttogether to make the project happen," Wexler says. That's whereSunlight comes in. The company advises the developers on how tostructure their projects legally and financially so that they canget their plans in order to resubmit them to lenders.

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Sunlight also offers services for commercial property ownerswhose buildings have solar potential. The company can provideservices for single-building owners and for those withmultiple-building portfolios, such as REITs.

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For single-building owners, Sunlight can manage the project,supervise all rebate and tax applications and act as liason withthe client's accountants to maximize tax savings. "We recommend allcommercial projects have a procedure for controlling project fundsand insurance coverage/bonding through a construction escrow,"Wexler says; Sunlight offers such services through a sister companythat acts as the escrow agent and trustee for funds.

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Sunlight hopes to serve REITs by creating for them, or helpingthem analyze, different financial models based on specific energyusage at a property and alternative legal structures. "A REIToffers a project pipeline that is more easily financed than aone-off building," Wexler points out. "We are having a moredifficult time for one-off projects."

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Sunlight "gives REITs the ability to outsource the job ofimplementing their sustainability plan, so the executives can focuson their core business," Wexler says. "We quarterback the projectfinancing and act as construction escrow agent."

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In general, financing is readily available for projects of aboutone megawatt (approximately $5.5 million) or more, Wexlersays. Le Blanc adds that a commercial building needs "a big enoughfootprint with a big enough solar array on it that we can getfinancing at competitive rates." Financing structures include newdebt, leases and structured tax equity investments. Lenders includetraditional banks and private investment funds; very generally,lenders are looking for three years of operating history and a BBBrating from one of the major rating agencies.

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One of Sunlight's long-term goals is to add another service forits clients: aggregating and monetizing renewable energy credits,or RECs, through a sister company, Sunlight Planet Capital MarketsLLC. A key to this is for California to adopt legislation thatwould allow RECs to be traded. The state legislature adopted twoREC-related bills last year, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoedboth.

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"We expect a new bill will be passed in 2010 and, hopefully, itwill be signed into law," Wexler says. Once the RECs can be traded,the cash returns for commercial solar installations will increasesignificantly, Wexler says. "Our ability to monetize our clients'RECs will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the economichurdles to solar adoption," the Sunlight Planet CEO says.

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