SolarCity’s ambitious plan to bring solar energy systems to 160,000 private military residences is hitting a major speed bump because of problems with a federal loan guarantee.
SolarCity was to install, own and operate the solar energy systems at as many as 124 military bases in 33 states. The project, valued at $1 billion, would essentially double the number of rooftop residential photovoltaic systems in the US over the next five years.
Funding was expected to come from US Renewable Group’s debt financing arm, which partnered with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to provide $344 million to SolarCity for the project. 80% of the loan was to have been backed by a DOE loan guarantee. Now the DOE won’t be able to close the loan guarantee before the program expires on Sept. 30. The loan guarantee was needed to lower the cost of capital for the project.
In a letter sent from SolarCity’s CEO to House Republicans asking for help in extending the program’s deadline, the company blamed the delay on additional paperwork requested in the wake of Solyndra’s failure. Solyndra had received $535 million in DOE loans but filed for bankruptcy the day before SolarCity was offered its own $275 million loan guarantee.
So, our military continues to be the place for experimenting with poor ideas. I you lived in one of the homes that was going to be sun-powered, and the sun didn’t shine that day, does this mean that you have no electricity that day? Don’t really want your home electricity fading out because some cloud was overhead for too long, do you? Or is some fossil-fueled power station cranking out electricity in case you need it? And if that power station is cranking out the power—just in case you need it—then we’re simply double-producing the power, right?
Let’s wait until private industry works out the bugs in this alternative power stuff before we invest billions of federal dollars into it (dollars we don’t have) or force it on our military—who can’t say no.