A San Francisco startup may win approval as soon as this month to become the first firm allowed to raise money for solar-power projects as a REIT, the financing vehicle used in $640 billion of U.S. property ventures.

Renewable Energy Trust Capital Inc., led by a former Moody’s Investors Service chief executive officer, has asked tax officials at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to classify solar farms as the type of “real property” that may be included in real estate investment trusts, or REITs. A ruling is imminent, according to Kelly Kogan, an attorney with Chadbourne & Parke LLP, which advises financiers on REITs.

A favorable decision may open the U.S. photovoltaic power industry to retail investors at a time when it needs about $6.9 billion a year. REITs, typically formed to develop commercial property like shopping centers and warehouses, returned an average 28 percent in 2012, data on 208 U.S. REITs compiled by Bloomberg show. The format would offer tradable stakes while cutting the cost of capital for developers, according to Felix Mormann, a research fellow at Stanford University Law School’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance.

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