Altus Creates Fund to Invest in Commercial Solar Projects

Altus Power America Management, a Connecticut-based renewable-energy investment company, formed a $34 million fund with backing from Catlin Group Ltd. to finance commercial solar plants.

Catlin is investing $30 million in the fund, which will offer annual returns of around 10 percent, Tom Athan, a managing partner for Old Greenwich-based Altus, said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters.

The company plans to install solar panels at schools, commercial buildings, industrial sites and municipal locations. The model is similar to the solar leases offered by companies including SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., which are driving a boom in residential solar by offering systems to consumers with little to no initial costs.

“We have construction companies all around the country trying to build solar and speaking to people who want solar but don’t have the capital,” Athan said. “We’re the outlet for that.”

Altus Power is seeking to raise additional capital and expects to invest as much as $100 million in solar projects over the next eight to nine months, he said.

The company first invested in solar power in 2009 and has power plants in operation in six states.

As solar power becomes more common, Athan expects the returns available to investors to shrink.

“We’re putting deals on at 10 percent, and in a couple years they might be putting them on at 6 percent,” he said. “Still, I think there are plenty of deals out there for a long time that everybody can do, and more people coming into the market actually helps get the word out about what solar is.”