AGRIS Solar Co-operative

AGRIS Solar Co-operative
Spark Solar

Spark Solar

November 16, 2010 12:33 ET

Ontario Farmers Seeing Green

Innovative Solar Co-op Goes Construction-Ready; Secures $55 Million Agribusiness Credit Facility and Hiring Fifty for 1,000 Ontario Farm Installation

CHATHAM, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2010) - The sun is shining on an innovative agricultural co-operative launched earlier this year to put 1,000 solar systems on Ontario farms enabling rural participation in the Province's MicroFIT program. A large crowd attended the open house of the recently acquired warehouse that will serve as the construction hub for the installations that are expected to begin very soon.

AGRIS Solar Co-op, announced today, realization of significant milestones that have turned the project "construction-ready". Milestones include; $14 million equity and land commitments by farm and rural co-operative members; approval of a $55 million debt facility from lenders including Farm Credit Canada ("FCC") and Rabobank Nederland ("Rabobank"); a commitment to hiring of fifty "green" collar employees dedicated to the project by AGRIS Solar's construction partner, Northwind Solutions Inc.

"This is an historic day for AGRIS Solar; our partners, and our members", said David Malott, Board Chair of AGRIS Solar Co-op. "We're moving from planning to construction. Subject to one last check by provincial regulators, the rubber is hitting the (dirt) road. We can't thank our members enough for their patience and support," he added.

"1,000 units on Ontario farms is incredibly exciting. This is creating economic and environmental benefits that remain in the rural community. Distributed, clean energy and direct investment is good for farm communities – it is both the smart thing and the right thing," Malott continued.

The Co-op was established to enable equity participation for farmers and rural landowners, in the Province's MicroFIT program through a complete solar solution. AGRIS Solar's solution has included all elements of development and implementation including technological assessment and procurement, construction and maintenance along with expertise in finance, insurance and management and we believe we've built a model that will be replicated across the Province.

"AGRIS has created a structure for participation built on organized and professional management and top technology," said Andrew Clark, General Manager of AGRIS Solar Co-operative. "We're responding to the wants and needs of the farm community that keeps the economic, environmental and altruistic dividends here in the community. We believe our approach will work well in other parts of the Province and expect to grow our territory in the near future," he continued.

The project's $55 million debt facility was a final requirement in the project's movement from planning to execution. Farm Credit Canada, a self-sustaining Canadian lender to agriculture and agri-business partnered with AGRIS Solar Co-op, having completed thorough due diligence on AGRIS and its partners.

"AGRIS Solar takes an innovative approach to agricultural participation in renewable energy," said John Geurtjens, Director of Agribusiness and Agri-Food for Farm Credit Canada. "The co- operative model is no stranger to agriculture. Working together to create efficiencies, find synergies and leverage resources is how farmers get things done. It follows that this structure would work well in rural Ontario," he said.

"To date the focus in the renewable energy world has been on mega-projects, where equity interests are owned by corporations. AGRIS Solar's project was very interesting to us because; aligned well with FCC's mandate, made a compelling business case while allowing direct participation of individual farmers in renewable energy."

"We're proud to partner with AGRIS Solar and commend their initiative in the agricultural community," he continued.

AGRIS Solar Co-op also announced completion of two units in Warwick, Ontario a special situation requiring premature mobilization of the co-op's operation team to complete installation of a members' unit before his conditional offers from the Ontario Power Authority expired.

AGRIS Solar will begin construction of its first phase installations early next year through its construction and maintenance partner, Northwind Solutions, who have an extensive track record in the renewable energy sector.

Through a recent "Green Job Fair" more than 50 local employees are being hired for the project via AGRIS Solar's construction partner, Northwind anticipates additional hires in the coming months.

It is still possible for individual farmers and rural landowners to participate in the MicroFIT program. For more information contact AGRIS Solar Co-op (www.agrissolar.coop).

Spara Capital Partners Inc, were financial advisors in securing the debt facility.

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