Data Center Solar Startup Gains $14.5M Funding for Illinois Projects

March 4, 2024
The financing with SkyRocket Capital eventually extends to Donato Solar’s planned pipeline of 100 MW in projects, totaling close to $100 million in financing. Anthony Donato is a longtime Chicago area businessman who started Donato Solar in 2022 and also is CEO of GAIL Technologies, a solar data center development startup.

A startup focused on building solar energy installations to power new data centers in Illinois gained a $14.5 million funding boost to push the projects closer to completion.

SunRocket Capital announced three separate construction-to-permanent funding transactions with Donato Solar. The $14.5 million in financing for the first quarter of this year are connected to three solar data center projects totaling 9.24 MW in capacity.

The solar fields, in addition to directly powering the data centers, are designed to overproduce during the day and provide excess electricity into the main grid. Donato Solar received local approvals for the projects in late 2022 and has already started work on at least one of the installations planned for Champaign County, according to news reports.

The financing with SkyRocket Capital eventually extends to Donato Solar’s planned pipeline of 100 MW in projects, totaling close to $100 million in financing. Anthony Donato is a longtime Chicago area businessman who, in addition to starting Donato Solar in early 2022, is CEO of data center-focused development firm GAIL Technology Inc. formed several years earlier.

“The team at SunRock Capital has proven to be an exceptional financial partner,” Donato said in a statement. “They operate with speed and efficiency and are very knowledgeable regarding solar development, a unique and important component of helping expedite financing.”

SkyRocket Capital recently changed its name from Sol-REIT LLC. The financing firm also made a few management changes along with the new name, according to a press release late last month.

Each of the Donato Solar projects reportedly will receive solar renewable energy credits (RECs) awarded through the Illinois Power Authority’s program known as Illinois Shines. The RECs are allocated with the goal of 15-year power generation lifespans.

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The growth of data centers, particularly in the sector of hyperscale and artificial intelligence capabilities, is stressing the traditional power generation portfolio. The industry has always required on-site backup power, typically diesel generators, but it is seeking sustainability goals and future carbon-free energy alternatives such as solar, battery storage, renewable natural gas and even small-scale nuclear.

Data giants such as Meta, Google and Microsoft are pursuing future projects centered around, hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels and renewables, including microgrids.

About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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