A bank with a large presence in West Michigan aims to qualify for a 100-percent renewable energy designation in 2018 by partnering on a solar power facility.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank said yesterday it signed a power purchase agreement with Mooresville, North Carolina-based SunEnergy1.

Fifth Third will buy all of the energy output from SunEnergy1’s planned $200-million, 80-megawatt Aulander Holloman solar facility in Hertford County, North Carolina. The bank will then sell all of the energy to customers in the North Carolina market.

“This initiative affirms our bold commitment to advance environmental stewardship,” said Greg Carmichael, chairman, president and CEO, Fifth Third Bancorp. “This innovative project will reduce Fifth Third’s carbon footprint and benefit the communities we serve.”

Scott Hassell, Fifth Third’s VP and director of environmental sustainability, said the agreement will offset the bank’s carbon footprint, because the project will generate an estimated 194,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity — equal to Fifth Third Bank’s annual energy consumption.

“It will not just generate power but will give us Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs),” Hassell said. “In the U.S., you have to own RECs equal to the amount of power you use to qualify for 100-percent renewable energy status.”

Fifth Third Bank is not a co-owner or financial partner on the project. SunEnergy1 will design, build and own the facility.

However, Hassell said the power purchase agreement is what makes construction of the facility possible.

“We have signed a contract to guarantee we will buy the power generated from it and pay a fixed price for it,” Hassell said. “That contract they can take to a financial institution to get a loan, build the facility and get it online.”

Fifth Third was assisted in the selection and execution of the power purchase agreement by Rueil-Malmaison, France-based Schneider Electric after issuing a request for proposal.

The bank did not disclose the amount it will pay per megawatt hour for the purchase of the energy from SunEnergy1.

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