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Beyond Solyndra: How the Energy Department’s Loans are Accelerating America’s Transition to a Clean Energy Future

June 21, 2012 - 11:00am

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The market for clean energy technologies is expanding rapidly here at home and around the world, with China, India and many other nations aggressively competing for what they recognize as a huge economic opportunity. In the global race for clean energy jobs, the United States can and must play to win. 

According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, last year the global clean energy market saw more than $260 billion in investment – with the United States overtaking China as the global leader.

Much of this investment was spurred along by the Energy Department’s loan programs, which have helped lower the cost of financing for large scale, innovative renewable energy projects. 

In fact, while critics have focused their attention on the Department’s loan guarantee to Solyndra, the full story is that the Department’s loan portfolio as a whole is having a transformative impact, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and helping double America’s renewable electricity generation. 

Today, the Department is releasing a slide presentation via SlideShare which offers a more complete picture of how the loan program is helping accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy future. For example, loans backed by the Department of Energy are supporting:

  • One of the world’s largest wind farms.
  • The world’s largest photovoltaic and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants currently under construction.
  • Two CSP plants that will more than double the nation’s CSP capacity.
  • The first two all-electric vehicle manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
  • The first distributive photovoltaic energy project on a national scale that will install solar panels on commercial rooftops in up to 28 states.
  • One of the country’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants.
  • The first nuclear power plant to be built in the U.S. in the last three decades.

The country is benefitting in two ways. First, the projects themselves create jobs and provide our economy with clean, renewable power while protecting our air and water. They are generating $55 billion in investment into our economy and creating enough clean energy capacity to power 2.5 million homes – equal to all the homes in Colorado. 

Second, by supporting first-of-their-kind, large scale wind, solar, geothermal and biofuel projects with cutting edge technology – and then showing that these projects can be commercially successful – these investments are lowering the risk profile for future projects so that private financing will become more widely available to this growing industry. As the saying goes: “every banker wants to be the first one to finance your second project.” 

Indeed, a recent Businessweek report discussed how, prior to the loan program, “solar technology was so unfamiliar that few banks would back projects” but that the federal loan guarantee program “assuaged investors’ concerns and built up a bigger community of people who understand how to make money from solar deals.”  As the CEO of Sharp Corporation’s renewable power unit explains in the story, “solar is now bankable. When solar was perceived as more risky it required a premium, and now it is becoming part of a much broader capital market.”

To learn more, view the Department’s presentation on SlideShare.

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