From solar backpacks to solar tents, the U.S. military has been implementing solar power (and other renewable energy sources) in innovative ways for quite some time. So it’s really no surprise that the military would want to expand its green efforts on the home front. Yesterday, the Obama administration approved a partial $344 million loan guarantee for SolarCity’s SolarStrong Project, which will install solar panels on 160,000 homes across 124 military bases in 33 states. The new panels will essentially double the number of residential solar panels currently in use in the United States.
“This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release. “This groundbreaking project is expected to create hundreds of jobs for Americans and provide clean, renewable power to our military families.”
The SolarStrong project is currently underway, installing some 2,000 panels at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. The private companies that run military housing bases are working with SolarCity to install the panels, but SolarCity will own and operate the systems.
Solar advocates hope that the project will show other home owners around the country how easy it is to use solar power to help our country improve its energy independence. Additionally, Tim Newell, the managing director of the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, the private equity firm providing the loan for the project, said that its a “low-risk” project, which should help the public see that residential solar panels really are a viable option for all home owners.
The Energy Department’s loan program has come under fire in the last week because of Solyndra’s filing for bankruptcy. The solar company had received some $530 million in loans.
“It’s important to remember that all of the capital (including the loan) for this project is being provided by the private sector,” Newell said in an email to the Associated Press. “DOE is only providing a guarantee for a portion of the project’s loan in order to reduce the financing cost and make it possible to include more states and more military bases in the project.”
But SolarCity and Solyndra are very different situations. SolarCity is an established company that has a very positive track record. Plus the loan will not even kick in until after many of the panels have already been installed. Solyndra, on the other hand, was a company just getting off the ground and was using the loan money to build facilities.
Via the Associated Press
All images via SolarCity