The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has raised questions around the availability of capital for the clean energy sector, having been a major actor in the space to-date including with Sunrun, Leap, AES, Cypress Creek Renewables and other developers.
The bank went into receivership last week after customers withdrew deposits en-mass leaving it with a negative cash balance. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) quickly stepped in and transferred all deposits and all assets to a new ‘bridge bank’ entity – Silicon Valley Bridge Bank – allowing customers’ business to continue uninterrupted.
But the collapse has raised questions for the c.1,500 clean energy companies it has worked with, and the plethora of renewable energy and energy storage projects it has financed including some 62% of all community solar in the US. While the FDIC’s move appears to prevent any short-term fallout, the long-term effect on the availability of capital, specifically tax equity, has divided opinion.
Banking sources interviewed by S&P Global, for example, mostly said that other financial institutions would be more than willing to step in and take on existing loans and fill in the void left by the bank for future deals. However, the bank’s collapse may reinforce the perception amongst some that both the cost and scarcity of capital are increasing, according to Ted Brandt, CEO of investment bank Marathon Capital.
US residential solar and storage systems installer Sunrun had exposure to Silicon Valley Bank totalling nearly 15% of its hedging facilities, nearly US$80 million in cash deposits, and the bank still had an US$40 million undrawn portion of a large debt facility.
In addition to a statement issued on 10 March, Sunrun CEO Mary Powell provided sister site PV Tech with the following comments after the FDIC’s Bridge Bank was announced:
“We are pleased that the federal government acted Sunday to stabilize the banking system, ensuring us access to the less than US$80 million we had in deposits at SVB. Sunrun has long-standing banking relationships with a large number of financial institutions, and we remain confident in our ability to replace SVB’s undrawn commitments. Sunrun has always believed in strength through diversification.”
Debt facilities: Leap, Flux Power and e-Zinc
The bank also provided the debt portion of a US$33 million fundraise round by distributed energy resources (DER) platform company Leap in late 2021. In a statement provided to Energy-Storage.news, Leap CEO Thomas Folker said:
“Like the thousands of other technology companies banking with Silicon Valley Bank, Leap was shocked and concerned to hear of their rapid decline into receivership last week.”
“We took swift steps to ensure that Leap had access to sufficient capital to maintain our operations and,
at this point, we do not foresee any near-term or long-term impacts to Leap’s business.”
Other firms with debt facilities from the bank include commercial and industrial equipment lithium-ion energy storage solutions firm Flux Power (a US$14 million credit facility in January 2023) and zinc-based battery firm e-Zinc (a US$7 million facility in October 2022).
E-Zinc has not responded to a request for comment while a spokesperson for Flux Power pointed to the FDIC’s Bridge Bank announcement.
Developers and project financing: Leeward, Cypress Creek, AES and others
The bank was also active in providing financing for many large-scale solar and storage projects across the US. In the past year Solar Media reported on the following deals it participated in:
Cypress Creek told PV Tech: “Cypress Creek is aware of the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank (another collapsed bank). We do not expect these incidents to have a material impact on our business operations but we are continuing to monitor the situation closely.”
Further back, it was involved in financing deals for Plus Power’s 565MWh Kapolei project in Hawaii, AES Corporation subsidiary sPower, AES Corporation directly for a community solar portfolio, and deals with Distributed Solar Development (DSD) and Vivint Solar back in 2019.
Plus Power declined to comment when asked by Energy-Storage.news.
Cash holdings: Stem Inc, Proterra and QuantumScape
Other energy storage firms with exposure through cash holdings in the bank include AI-driven energy storage company Stem Inc, large EV and storage solutions firm Proterra and solid-state battery technology company QuantumScape. All three issued statements last week.
Stem Inc said its holdings amounted to less than 5% of its cash and short-term investments, Proterra said it had a ‘de minimis‘ (not significant) amount while QuantumScape described it had a “…low single digit percentage exposure relative to both the Company’s total liquidity and total assets”.
Future of Silicon Valley Bank
At its peak, Silicon Valley Bank had a market capitalisation of US$44 billion and total assets of US$212 million, making it the 16th-largest commercial bank in the US. The bank may still come out of this intact, with various venture capital firms reportedly mulling a takeover and re-organisation.
The newly-appointed CEO of the Bridge Bank entity Tim Mayapoulos issued a statement yesterday (14 March), via Silicon Valley Bank’s website, calling on those who withdrew funds to transfer them back to the bridge bank and “support the future of this institution”. HSBC has stepped in and acquired its much smaller UK arm.
Energy-Storage.news’ publisher Solar Media will host the 5th Energy Storage Summit USA, 28-29 March 2023 in Austin, Texas. Featuring a packed programme of panels, presentations and fireside chats from industry leaders focusing on accelerating the market for energy storage across the country. For more information, go to the website. Reporter Cameron Murray will be attending both days.