Eight-and-a-half years after founding Recurrent Energy, I'm stepping down as CEO and board chair today. I leave the company in the hands of a new generation of leaders, headed by former COO David Brochu, and new owner, Canadian Solar. Preparing for this transition has afforded me time for reflection. Certainly, I feel proud of my accomplishments building a successful company. But the feelings that stand out for me as I look back are gratitude for the support of our talented team, awe for the role the company played ushering solar power into the mainstream, and humility in recognizing how much this role challenged and changed me as a leader.
Recurrent Energy was originally founded in 2006 on the premise that large rooftops would be the key to scale in solar power. Our goal was to own and operate a large generating fleet atop industrial buildings, providing clean affordable power to big businesses. We formed partnerships with some of the biggest real estate owners in the world and secured an initial $200M tax equity fund from Morgan Stanley to make it happen. But as is often the case with startups, our strategy proved difficult to realize. Complicated credit agreements between building owner, tenant, and generator made for slow sales and challenging financings. On top of that, the snowballing financial crisis that emerged in 2008 put further obstacles in our path.
Many successful startups have a 'pivot' story, a moment in their early evolution when the strategy isn't working and survival demands a new plan. For Recurrent Energy that catalyst was the realization that massive investment in silicon and solar module capacity in China would radically change the economics of solar photovoltaics. Remember that in 2008, the conventional wisdom was that solar-thermal technology would dominate the utility-scale market and new materials would replace the silicon wafers in photovoltaic panels. We made our pivot, rapidly refocusing our efforts on ground-mounted utility-scale projects underpinned by a contrarian bet that silicon-based solar would win the day. Boy were we right!
In the period since 2008, we built one of North America's largest utility-scale solar project pipelines, winning over 1.5GW of contracts with utilities like PG&E, SCE, SMUD, OPA, LADWP, and Austin Energy. Our first big success, a 5MW project for the City of San Francisco, was soon followed by a series of 'medium scale' 10-20MW projects sited on low-value land that could be permitted and interconnected quickly. With acquisition of UPC Solar's pipeline in Ontario Canada in 2011 we doubled down on the medium-scale bet. Those projects were followed by a number of long lead-time 100MW+ projects in California and Texas. To date, we've completed almost 700MW of our contracted pipeline, raising over $4B in project financing along the way. As I leave, the company has a bright future ahead as it breaks ground on its 2016 portfolio and a robust pipeline continues to deliver growth with new contract awards.
It's hard to overstate just how radically the solar industry was transformed during the period I led Recurrent Energy. In 2006, solar photovoltaics were an expensive 'science experiment' on the margins of electric power. Even the 'promising" solar thermal and non-silicon technologies were relatively expensive compared to wind and conventional sources. At best, it seemed solar would be lucky to play a minor role in mainstream power.
Change came as Germany's feed-in-tariff, California's RPS, and global carbon-markets stimulated a race to build new silicon and module capacity. With scale and improved manufacturing processes, came an historic reduction in module prices that resulted in solar leapfrogging its way past nuclear and coal on cost. Today, solar stands alongside wind and natural gas and most experts agree that these three technologies will shape our energy future for the foreseeable future. Indeed for the past three years solar has been the second largest source of new build generation in the US. It's been an immensely gratifying transformation to witness and I'm proud to have played a part in helping the industry to reach this stage.
Success for Recurrent Energy and the solar industry wasn't an accident of history or timing. They were the result of a large group of talented people who dreamed big and worked hard to change policy, raise capital, build manufacturing, develop land, market power, and deliver projects. I'm humbled every time I join a group of my colleagues to recognize the expertise, skill, discipline, and determination necessary to push companies and an industry to achieve big change. It's been an honor to lead and to work with all of you.
Nothing has been more humbling than my experience as board chair of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). For two years, I worked to build consensus among a diverse group of industry leaders and to define a path forward through challenging times. I became chair in the middle of the 2012. The industry was reeling from its role as political punching bag during a presidential election. The Solyndra loan and other scandals dominated headlines and undermined public support. That challenge was followed by a bruising public battle over the future of net-metering that threatened to divide SEIA and drive a wedge between the industry and many of its supporters. In the end, we were successful in keeping our heads down and focusing on the importance of our shared goals. Our belief was that we could turn public opinion back in our favor with a series of industry 'success stories' based on projects, businesses, and people that demonstrated solar's potential.
I'm looking forward now to taking some time off to further reflect and take a much needed break. While my role as CEO enabled me to drive change in the outside world, I also have to recognize how much I have changed in the process. Leadership presents numerous challenges that demand transformative personal growth and self-awareness. And life brings change too. In the course of my time at Recurrent Energy I divorced, remarried, and had another child. I'm going to spend the next six months cycling, cooking, catching up with old friends, and enjoying some new hobbies. Eventually I'm sure I'll get restless and my entrepreneurial nature will engage in some new exciting adventure. For now, there's a lounge chair by the pool and a drink waiting for me!