STORE SPACES

Starbucks investing in regional solar farms to support stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Starbucks Coffee Company is upping its investments in renewable energy via a new model.

The coffee giant is teaming up with solar company Cypress Creek Renewables and U.S. Bank on a portfolio of solar farms across Texas. As a part of the deal, two 10-megawatt solar farms developed, built and now operated by Cypress Creek, are providing enough energy for the equivalent of 360 Starbucks stores in Texas. ENGIE Resources is providing full retail energy requirements, including a structure that provides budget certainty via a fixed price and a simple retail energy supply contract.

Starbucks is separately investing in six Cypress Creek-owned solar farms in Texas, representing 50 megawatts of solar energy. In total, the portfolio of eight projects is reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 101,000 tons per year, the equivalent of planting nearly 2.5 million trees.

“Our long-standing commitment to renewable energy supports our greener retail initiative and demonstrates our aspiration to sustainable coffee, served sustainably,” said Rebecca Zimmer, Starbucks director of global environmental impact. “Now, we are investing in new, renewable energy projects in our store communities, which we know is something our partners and customers can appreciate for their local economy and for the environment.”

The U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), the tax credit division of U.S. Bank, brought Cypress Creek and Starbucks together to facilitate the transaction and provided a portion of the tax equity investment. This is the second time Starbucks and U.S. Bank have worked together to develop and finance a solar project, having previously worked on a 47-megawatt solar farm in Maxton, N.C., that powers 600 Starbucks stores.

Chris Roetheli, business development officer with the USBCDC, said solar tax equity investments are increasing in popularity among non-traditional investors such as Starbucks.

“Starbucks is taking a unique approach – investing in solar farms regionally to support a specific group of its stores,” Roetheli said. “This is a new concept and one that I think other companies are watching and may follow. It’s an interesting model that allows them to talk specifically about the impact of their investments.”

Starbucks is the number one purchaser of renewable electricity in its sector on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership Retail Top 30. As Starbucks continues to purchase renewable energy to reduce its environmental impact, the company is also being more regionally intentional with its approach by investing in local projects, such as the one in Texas, to directly support the markets where it has stores.

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