Sustainable Investment Awards 2023

ESG fixed income fund of the year, America: Sunwealth Solar Impact Fund

Sunwealth says its Solar Impact Fund has deployed more than $135 million in 'community-scale', or smaller, solar projects to tackle climate change and inequality through the provision of more jobs in underserved communities in the US.

The fund bundles a variety of solar projects into a single investment vehicle, which enables non-profits, municipalities, affordable housing, houses of worship, small businesses and low-income households to access solar energy and savings "at no cost, while providing job creation and revenues for small businesses", including local solar developers and installers.

Each pool contains projects of various sizes, ranging from 25kW to 5MW.

Investors can gain exposure to these bundled projects through bond issues, over three-year or seven-year terms, or tax equity products.

Massachusetts-based Sunwealth says that, by minimising transaction costs and bundling a variety of solar projects into a single investment vehicle, its fund enables investors to achieve an attractive return on their investment with greater social impact.

One such project it financed was a 76kW rooftop solar project for the Lumbee Regional Development Association (LRDA) – a private nonprofit in Pembroke, North Carolina, founded by Native American tribal leaders to bring social, educational, and economic services to members of the Lumbee tribe. Sunwealth developed the project with North Carolina-based Eagle Solar and Light.

Sunwealth estimated the project would provide about $115,000 in lifetime energy savings to LRDA to reinvest in their community.

Earlier this year, the fund claimed the Award for innovation – bond structure for social bonds in Environmental Finance's Bond Awards.

Omar Blayton, chief financial officer at Sunwealth, said: As investors increasingly prioritize ESG strategies, Sunwealth continues to deliver measurable environmental, social, and economic benefits to diverse communities without sacrificing financial returns to investors. We’re looking forward to scaling our impact in the years to come.”