Department of Energy Finances Rooftop Solar, Hydro Power Projects

WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy (DOE) granted SolarCity Corp. a conditional commitment for a $344 million loan to support a record expansion of residential rooftop solar power in the United States.

Under the conditional commitment for the partial guarantee of the SolarStrong Project, the San Mateo, Calif.-based solar service provider 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.  

The SolarStrong project will provide low-cost, renewable electricity to privatized military housing and is expected to avoid more than 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Department of Energy officials said the project could create up to 371 megawatts of new solar capacity. It includes the installation of residential rooftop photovoltaic systems on existing privatized military family residences and other privatized buildings, such as community centers, administrative offices, maintenance buildings and storage warehouses.

SolarCity Corp. expects the project to fund about 750 construction jobs over five years and 28 full-time operating jobs. DOE officials expect U.S. veterans and military family members to fill many of the jobs. They will be recruited, trained and employed to install, operate and maintain the photovoltaic systems.

"This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who made the announcement on Sept. 7. "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."

At no additional cost to taxpayers, the project will also help the Department of Defense – which officials say is single-largest energy consumer in the United States – secure its energy needs from domestic renewable sources that are independent from the utility grid, part of its stated goal to generate 25 percent of all consumed energy supplied from renewable sources by 2025.

The five-year project begins with a four-megawatt installation at Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii, with construction currently underway. SolarCity expects to sell electricity produced from the projects through long-term electricity sales agreements, or lease solar systems through long-term lease contracts.

Flood of Hydropower Projects on Tap

The Energy Department is also funding 16 projects designed to make hydropower production even more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly, Chu announced.

The research projects, selected by the department’s Wind and Water Power Program, aim to help advance hydropower technologies while creating jobs. Companies, universities, national laboratories, and local governments in 11 states will receive nearly $17 million over the next two to three years to develop technologies that produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs, and alleviate possible adverse environmental effects of hydropower development.

Officials said hydropower is the nation’s largest, most reliable and least-expensive source of renewable power generation. The projects will help the United States move closer to its goal of generating 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

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