Warren Buffett's Next $15 Billion Deal May Surprise You

Warren Buffett is one of the largest renewable energy investors in the world and investors can copy his success with new YieldCos hitting the market.

Jul 20, 2014 at 10:26AM

You may not know it but Warren Buffett is actually one of the biggest renewable energy investors in the world. He's spent $15 billion buying up wind and solar farms that not only create clean energy but also generate consistent cash flow and return on his investment.

He recently said that he has another $15 billion ready to buy more renewable projects and there are some investments emerging that he should love in the renewable energy business.

Fslr Project Image

First Solar has been one of the largest utility project builders in the world, projects that can be sold to new YieldCos. Source: First Solar.

What Warren Buffet has bought
Buffett has spent around $15 billion buying wind and solar projects that generate consistent cash flows year after year. Before he buys or builds them these projects generally have long-term (20-year) power purchase agreements that guarantee a rate for every kW-hr of electricity they generate.

Sune Chile Project Image

SunEdison is now building projects around the world, like this one in Chile. Source: SunEdison.

So far, Buffett has acquired 4.8 gigawatts of wind projects and 1.3 gigawatts of solar projects, primarily from SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR). He owns the 579 megawatt Solar Star that SunPower is currently constructing near Rosamond, California.

He may continue to buy projects outright but there's also a YieldCo strategy emerging that he can use to get similar exposure and still own renewable assets. The good news is that you can buy YieldCos that are hitting the market more frequently all the time.

Why Buffett should love the YieldCo
YieldCos are similar to MLPs in oil & gas and REITs in real estate in that they own assets that give off cash flow that's then paid to investors. What they own may differ between different YieldCos, especially as the industry evolves.

Right now, there are two YieldCos to keep an eye on. NRG Energy launched NRG Yield (NYSE:NYLD) last year and the company owns not only solar and wind assets but also some fossil fuel generators that allow them to use renewable tax benefits. NRG Energy has been very aggressive in adding solar assets in recent years and we could see them push renewable assets down to NRG Yield in the future.

Sune Air Force Project Image

This SunEdison project for the Air Force is another example of the military looking for renewable energy. Source: SunEdison.

SunEdison launched TerraFrom Power (NASDAQ:TERP) on Friday and it had a booming debut on the market. This is really the first solar-only YieldCo launched thus far and we can expect that to continue as SunEdison pushes future projects down to its spinoff. Initially, the company will have 807.7 megawatts of nameplate production according to the S-1 including 134.8 megawatts of distributed solar projects, which are rooftop residential and commercial systems. 

In the future, I would expect to see SunPower and First Solar also launch YieldCos because they own the perfect assets for such a company and a long history of power plant performance. Until then, they'll both benefit by selling projects to YieldCos. 

Investing like Warren Buffett
It's not possible for us to buy multi-billion dollar projects the way Warren Buffett can but it is now possible to invest in solar projects similar to what he does. Renewable and solar energy YieldCos have opened a new opportunity in the market and provide exposure to these energy sources without the risk of owning a manufacturer. That's why Warren Buffett likes them and if you're looking for similar exposure they may be a good investment for you too.

Warren Buffett: This new technology is a "real threat"
At the recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffett admitted this emerging technology is threatening his biggest cash-cow. While Buffett shakes in his billionaire-boots, only a few investors are embracing this new market which experts say will be worth over $2 trillion. Find out how you can cash in on this technology before the crowd catches on, by jumping onto one company that could get you the biggest piece of the action. Click here to access a FREE investor alert on the company we're calling the "brains behind" the technology.

Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of NRG YIELD INC and SunPower and is personally long shares and options of SunPower. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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