Morgan Stanley invests $100 million in Mass. solar projects

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Morgan Stanley is making a $100 million bet on the Massachusetts solar market.

MS Solar Solutions, a subsidiary of the investment bank, has agreed to invest $100 million in a group of solar projects developed by Boston-based BlueWave.

John DeVillars, BlueWave’s managing principal, said his firm is also making an unspecified investment in this solar portfolio. Most of Morgan Stanley’s money, he said, will be used to complete the solar projects.

He said the portfolio includes 14 projects, totaling 25 megawatts, spread among four towns: Fairhaven, Oxford, Plympton, and Grafton. Two of the 14 are under construction already, with the rest scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.

This is the first major financing for BlueWave’s community solar program, which offers homeowners and small businesses the opportunity to benefit from solar power savings when their rooftops are not ideal for solar power. Instead, participants in the community solar program secure credits from off-site solar panels. BlueWave already has started selling community solar memberships for projects under development in the state.

DeVillars said the solar panel projects will be unaffected by the net metering debate taking place on Beacon Hill. Net metering allows solar panel owners to be reimbursed, through credits, for power that is sent from their panels onto the electric grid. The Legislature has caps in place to limit how much net metering can happen in each electric utility’s region, and lawmakers are currently debating how much those caps should be raised.

But DeVillars said these projects are far enough along that they’ve already received commitments that they can access net metering credits. These Morgan Stanley-financed projects also will benefit from the federal 30 percent tax credit for solar projects that will be reduced to 10 percent for commercial projects and to zero for residential ones at the end of next year.

BlueWave has grown steadily amid the state’s surge in solar projects in recent years. DeVillars said his company had three employees five years ago, and now has 47 today. DeVillars also is known in the Boston area for his public sector roles, including stints as state environmental affairs secretary and New England administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

These Morgan Stanley-financed projects also will benefit from the federal 30 percent tax credit for solar projects. That credit has been scheduled to be reduced to 10 percent for commercial projects and to zero for residential ones at the end of next year. But leaders in Congress this week are advancing a tax bill that includes a provision to continue the credit through 2019 at its existing rate before being phased down through 2022.

Updated to reflect discussions in Congress regarding tax credits for solar projects.