US Bancorp, Niagara Providing Funds for Connecticut Solar

(Corrects role of bank in first paragraph, funding amount in second.)

US Bancorp (USB) and First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (FNFG) are part of a group of banks that agreed to provide $26.7 million in debt financing to build rooftop solar projects in Connecticut.

The state will also contribute $9.5 million through its Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, the agency said today in a statement. It expects the program to attract a tax-equity investor, leading to about $60 million in total funding that will support rooftop power plants on about 1,500 homes and 40 businesses.

The agency is offering a financing alternative to solar leases offered by companies such as SolarCity Inc. (SCTY) and SunPower Corp. (SPWR) That will let customers choose installers, which will boost competition and reduce costs, according to Bert Hunter, chief investment officer at Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based CEFIA.

“More installers with more access to capital is going to lead to a more cost-competitive product for homeowners,” Hunter said in an interview yesterday.

The average installed cost of solar systems in the state is about $4.50 a watt, and the agency is seeking to drive that down to below $4 a watt by the end of the year, he said.

Webster Financial Corp., Liberty Bank and Peoples United Bank are also providing the funding. AFC First Financial Corp. will service the loans and and Assurant Inc. (AIZ) will insure the systems. The program will also cover the installation of about 400 solar water-heating systems.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ehren Goossens in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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