Calif. solar deal a sign that financing is restarting

Aerojet and Roseville-based Solar Power Inc. on Monday formally announced a nearly $20 million deal to build a 3.5-megawatt array of solar panels at the rocket maker's campus near Rancho Cordova.

By November, more than 18,000 panels are scheduled to cover about 20 acres of vacant land near White Rock Road, making the project among the largest of its kind in the nation. The panels will supply about one-fifth of the energy needed to operate the system of wells and water-treatment equipment Aerojet is using to clean up groundwater contaminated by its operations decades ago.

The announcement is a sign that financing for large solar installations is starting to flow again. The credit crunch chilled what until last fall had been a red-hot market built on elaborate deals structured to take full advantage of government tax credits. Steve Kircher, Solar Power's chief executive, said falling prices for the solar-panel components are also helping to drive down costs and improve returns for project backers.

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