Why is Uncle Sam going solar? It can save BIG money.
Washington D.C. – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $344 million loan guarantee that will support the SolarStrong Project, which is expected to be a record expansion of residential rooftop solar power in the United States. Under the SolarStrong Project, SolarCity Corporation will install, own and operate up to 160,000 rooftop solar installations on as many as 124 U.S. military bases in up to 33 states. SolarCity expects the project to fund approximately 750 construction jobs over five years and 28 full time operating jobs. Many of the jobs are expected to be filled by U.S. veterans and military family members, who will be recruited, trained and employed to install, operate and maintain the photovoltaic (PV) systems.
“This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history,” said Secretary Chu. “This groundbreaking project is expected to create hundreds of jobs for Americans and provide clean, renewable power to our military families. It can also be a model for other large-scale rooftop solar projects that help America regain its lead in the solar industry.”
The project, which could create up to 371 megawatts of new solar capacity, includes the installation of residential rooftop PV systems on existing privatized military family residences and other privatized buildings, such as community centers, administrative offices, maintenance buildings and storage warehouses. The project will provide low-cost, renewable electricity to privatized military housing and is expected to avoid over 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The SolarStrong Project will have the added benefit of helping the Department of Defense (DOD), the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S., secure its energy needs from domestic renewable sources that are independent from the utility grid, at no additional cost to taxpayers. DOD has a stated goal that 25 percent of all energy consumed by 2025 shall be supplied from renewable sources.
The project will be rolled out over five years, starting with a four megawatt installation at Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii, with construction currently underway. SolarStrong is expected to sell electricity produced from the projects through long-term electricity sales agreements or lease solar systems through long-term lease contracts.
USRG Renewable Finance, an affiliate of US Renewables Group, is acting as lead lender in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. USRG Renewable Finance submitted the application under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP). In a FIPP financing, the Department of Energy guarantees up to 80 percent of a loan provided to a renewable energy project by qualified financial institutions.
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office administers three separate programs: the Title XVII Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. The loan guarantee programs support the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, while ATVM supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies. To date, the Department has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States, including several of the world’s largest solar generation facilities, three geothermal projects, the world’s largest wind farm, and the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in three decades.