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THE OFFICE

BY ELLEN M. HEFFES

THE COMPANY
Sun Edison LLC,
a solar energy co
mpany
that has been a
pioneer in the de
ve
lopment and distri
bution of solar
po
we
r
systems and an in
dustry innovator.
Founded: 2003
Headquarters: Be
lmont, Calif.
Revenue: More th
an $600 million
(nonGAAP, as used by
most solar companies) for year en
ded Dec. 31, 2010
.
Company Status:
Wholly owned divi
si
on
of MEMC Electron
ic Materials (pub
licly traded symb
ol: WFR).
Company Footprin
t: More than 450
operational site
s installed to da
te,
and more than 93
6 million pounds
of
CO2 abated. In 20
10, listed as th
e
fifth-largest so
lar integrator gl
ob
ally.
Number of Employ
ees: More than 60
0
full time employ
ees globally.
Website: sunediso
n.com

How did the company get started?


Sun Edison was founded in 2003 by Jigar Shah and funded by
private equity investors including Goldman Sachs Group and
Mission Point Capital. The solar industry was highly capitalintensive, project costs were high and traditional solar companies were developing the market slowly.
The Sun Edison team developed alternate financing vehicles such as the power purchase agreement (customer
buys energy produced at their location over a long period
at a steady rate) and tax equity (investors who can use tax
credits will purchase the system).
Sun Edison also developed methods for higher quality,
lower cost and faster installation of solar projects. Creating
these innovations helped unlock the market and drive the
companys growth.
A solar project consists of an array of solar panels, also
known as modules, which convert sunlight into photons.
Energy is converted from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) by an inverter. It helps power the customers energy on site or is fed into the energy grid. Solar
can support anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent or
more of a customers energy needs during daylight hours,
depending on the location.

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 FinancialExecutive

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How has the business


model changed?
As solar has proliferated
though still below 2 percent of
global energy production
the costs of modules and materials have decreased dramatically. Successful solar companies must be constantly reducing cost and increasing energy
production efficiency as the
average conversion of sunlight
to energy is about 20 percent.

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Customers are also increasingly looking for improved


uptime and remote monitoring capabilities. Right now, it
is truly a global business.
Who are your customers?
Sun Edison develops solar projects for commercial, government, consumer and utility customers. We install, finance,
maintain and monitor projects
over their 30-year-plus lifespan.
What about competitors?
Solar is a highly fragmented
industry, with multiple players
involved in the supply chain.
The manufacture of solar
panels starts with polysilicon,
formed into wafers, then cells,
then the finished modules (different processes exist for thin
film and other technologies).
Solar modules are sold to companies which install, finance,
and service the projects.
We compete with companies ranging from vertically
integrated global module
manufacturers building their
own projects to public utilities and conventional energy
sources. In the end, it is all
about getting clean energy at
the lowest possible cost to
people who need it most.
How do you view growth
and opportunity?
Renewable energy, specifically
solar, will continue to accelerate as an energy source over the
next five to 10 years.
Declining solar costs, improved
efficiency and rising conventional energy prices are converging to the point where solar is
competitive without incentives
in some markets. This is known
as Grid Parity. Sun Edison and
MEMC are uniquely positioned with a large and
healthy project pipeline and

cost/efficiency path to
compete in and develop
these markets.
Current challenges
Negative publicity
related to the Solyndra
LLC bankruptcy and
default on a U.S. government loan guarantee and

deceleration of the
Italian solar market have
been challenges.
The global
economic condition
continues to affect the
future view of interest
rates, which are a critical component of project financial viability.

THE FINAN
CIAL

EXECUTIVE

Kevin Cunningham
Vice President, Acquisitions
and Integrations
How long in current role:
From June 2011-present. I was previously
chief financial officer, since September
2008.
FEI Chapter:
Washington, D.C.
Professional and Education summary:
I worked for General Electric Co. from
1991-2008, completing GEs Financial
Management Program and holding roles at
GE Healthcare, GE Investments and the GE
Corporate audit staff.
In 2000 I relocated to Japan, as Asia
FP&A director for GE Healthcare, and in
2003 moved to France as chief financial
officer for GE Healthcares International
services division.
I earned a B.S. in Finance from the
University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, am originally from Chicago and
currently reside in Maryland with my wife
and children.
What inspired you to join the company?
I experienced huge temperature variations while living in France, and saw
warming effects first-hand on a Baltic
vacation in 2005. With a family, including small children, Ive become more
aware of and concerned about the planet.
At the same time, Im 100 percent a capitalist who believes that the market,
competition and value creation should
drive economic decisions. I believe Sun
Edison has been a perfect intersection of
those interests.

FinancialExecutive JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

UNIQUE COMPANIES WHERE


FEI MEMBERS WORK

What events are significant


in its evolution?
Global awareness of climate
change and rising energy costs
have accelerated since 2000.
Many government entities
have supported solar with
favorable policies, including
Germany, Japan, Spain, Italy,
India and Thailand.
In the United States, a
federal tax credit and elements of the Reinvestment
and Recovery Act of 2008
(known as the Stimulus Bill)
aided acceleration of renewable energy, including solar.
California has traditionally
led the U.S. in support of solar initiatives with renewable
production standards, and
other states, New Jersey for
one, have significant cleanenergy requirements as well.
In November 2009, Sun
Edison was purchased by
MEMC Electronic Materials, a
public company with a 50year history of innovation and
technology leadership in semiconductor and solar wafers.
In November 2010 Sun
Edison commissioned the
largest solar plant ever built
in Europe at Rovigo, Italy.
This 71 megawatt (MW) system generates enough energy
to power more than 1,700
homes, or to remove 8,000
cars from the road.

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