Back when it was an expensive, unproven technology, solar energy was driven by hippies in sandals rigging up off-the-grid systems. About a decade ago, change-the-world Silicon Valley types hoping to make gazillions of dollars entered the fray, raising venture capital and promoting moonshot projects, like futuristic solar farms in the Southwestern desert.
Now come the financial service professionals. Because when it’s structured properly, the business of building solar panels and generating carbon-fee electricity can be a solid investment. Not a killer one that will mint billionaires overnight, and not a do-gooder plunge that will pay socially conscious investors below-market returns. But rather a mainstream vehicle that appeals to middle-aged guys in khakis who are more concerned with creating reliable streams of income and beating benchmarks than they are with saving the planet.