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Thread: Obama Adminisration Approves 2 More Solar Energy Loans

  1. #1
    Havakasha is offline
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    Obama Adminisration Approves 2 More Solar Energy Loans

    By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 3:10 PM

    WASHINGTON — The Energy Department on Wednesday approved two loan guarantees worth more than $1 billion for solar energy projects in Nevada and Arizona, two days before the expiration date of a program that has become a rallying cry for Republican critics of the Obama administration’s green energy program.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the department has completed a $737 million loan guarantee to Tonopah Solar Energy for a 110 megawatt solar tower on federal land near Tonopah, Nev., and a $337 million guarantee for Mesquite Solar 1 to develop a 150 megawatt solar plant near Phoenix.

     Solyndra, a California solar company backed by a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the Obama administration, announced it was shutting its doors and laying off 1,100 employees.

    The loans were approved under the same program that paid for a $528 million loan to Solyndra Inc., a California solar panel maker that went bankrupt after receiving the money and laid off 1,100 workers. Solyndra is under investigation by the FBI and is the focal point of House hearings on the program.

    SolarReserve LLC, of Santa Monica, Calif., the parent company for Tonopah, is privately held. The Energy Department said its rules prevented it from discussing the company’s financial information. Sempra Energy of San Diego, which owns Mesquite, is publicly held.

    Spokesman Damien LaVera said the two projects had extensive reviews that included scrutiny of the parent companies’ finances.

    Chu said the Nevada project would produce enough electricity to power more than 43,000 homes, while the Arizona project would power nearly 31,000 homes. The two projects will create about 900 construction jobs and at least 52 permanent jobs, Chu said.

    “If we want to be a player in the global clean energy race, we must continue to invest in innovative technologies that enable commercial-scale deployment of clean, renewable power like solar,” Chu said in a statement.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is a strong supporter of the Nevada project, which he says will help his state’s economy recover.

    The loan approvals came just two days before a renewable energy loan program approved under the 2009 economic stimulus law is set to expire. At least seven projects worth more than $5 billion are pending.

    A government watchdog group said the Solyndra bankruptcy shows the need for greater oversight of all the department’s loan guarantee programs.

    “It is time for a full audit of their activities, their management, and their results,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, Washington-based advocacy group.

    “Candidly, it might be time for the federal government to rethink the whole idea of loan programs,” Schatz added, calling the government’s track record on loan guarantees “lousy.”

    Too often, the government either backs risky or failing ventures, resulting in a loss of taxpayer money, or subsidizes companies and industries that are mature and profitable and don’t need the money, such as the oil and gas industry, Schatz said.

  2. #2
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    U.S. Army Embarks on $7 Billion Renewable Energy Overhaul

    Tina Casey September 25, 2011, 1:57 AM 3097 27

    The U.S. Army has embarked on an ambitious $7 billion series of utility-scale renewable energy projects.

    The new program involves building twenty utility-scale renewable energy installations that rely on a mix of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass power. The installations will be constructed on land owned by the Department of Defense, at Army bases throughout the U.S.

    The program calls for the Army to use its land as equity to leverage about $7 billion in private investment for the twenty projects.

    The Army’s goal is to provide its bases with reliable energy sources that are insulated from price spikes, shortages and grid disruptions. Aside from these energy security issues, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are key goals.

    Rather than paying up front for the installations, the Army plans to attract companies that would build the renewable energy installations in exchange for a commitment from the Army to purchase the energy.

    This type of arrangement, called a Power Purchase Agreement, is common in the solar industry.

    Since many base commanders do not have the resources to initiate or manage utility-scale energy construction projects (defined as about 10 megawatts or more), the Army has formed a new Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) composed of a small staff of experts who will assess projects, vet renewable energy companies, develop new technologies and streamline the approval process.

    EITF was organized over the summer and officially announced that it was open for business on September 15.

    At a recent roundtable discussion held for bloggers and reporters, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack described EITF’s mission as “unprecedented” in terms of size, and in terms of expanding the Army’s established acquisition procedures into new areas.

    “We’ve got the land and we’ve got the demand,” said Hammack.

    Hammack made it clear that the Army intends to use its normal acquisition procedures to push the program through.

    “We are going to leverage all of the tools available,” said Hammack, which would include loans and technology grants as well as loan guarantees.

    EITF’s mission dovetails with the Army’s recently announced Net Zero program, in which Army bases have the goal of consuming only as much energy and water as they can produce on site.

    Fort Bliss, one of the Net Zero program’s pilot bases, recently announced a $1.5 billion investment program to install more than 140 MW of renewable energy facilities on the base, and reclaim more than 500 million gallons of water annually.

    The first steps for EITF involve setting up new procedures and vetting 20 projects that are already in the pipeline. EITF’s goal is to have the first round of projects ready to go out for bid early next year.

    EITF will also be working with federal research resources including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify promising new technologies.

    Hammack noted that EITF is looking at all forms of renewable energy and has already received numerous contacts from the renewable energy industry regarding advanced technologies.

    In recent years the Department of Defense has raised an increasingly urgent call for transitioning out of petroleum fuel products, as risks and expenses rise.

    “We cannot serve and protect the citizens of the United States unless we have reliable access to energy,” said Hammack.

  3. #3
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    From Joe Nocera

    But if we could just stop playing gotcha for a second, we might realize that federal loan programs — especially loans for innovative energy technologies — virtually require the government to take risks the private sector won’t take. Indeed, risk-taking is what these programs are all about. Sometimes, the risks pay off. Other times, they don’t. It’s not a taxpayer ripoff if you don’t bat 1.000; on the contrary, a zero failure rate likely means that the program is too risk-averse. Thus, the real question the Solyndra case poses is this: Are the potential successes significant enough to negate the inevitable failures?

    I have a hard time answering “no.” Most electricity today is generated by coal-fired power plants, operated by monopoly, state-regulated utilities. Because they’ve been around so long, and because coal is cheap, these plants have built-in cost advantages that no new technology can overcome without help. The federal guarantees help lower the cost of capital for technologies like solar; they help spur innovation; and they help encourage private investment. These are all worthy goals.

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