Large Solar Project Proceeds on a Commercial Basis

For years I've been saying that no big photovoltaic project ever goes forward without big government subsidies. So as far as I'm concerned it's big news that SolarCity's Solar Strong project--to outfit military residences around the country with PV arrays, at an estimated cost of up to $1 billion--has obtained private financing for the project without a Federal government guarantee.

SolarCity originally hoped and expected the Department of Energy to guarantee 80 percent of the $344 million it needed to borrow to fund the initial phase of the project. But in the wake of the Solyndra debacle, DOE announced it could not get the requisite paperwork done in time to meet a mandated deadline. But today Bank of America's Merrill Lynch announced it would put up $350 for the project, with no guarantee.

So, the big solar project appears to be going forward--"without any government help," as the San Jose Mercury News trenchantly put it.

If "without any government help" happens to mean anything other than without any government help, we will be grateful if some alert reader will immediately correct the record. Otherwise it would seem that for the first time, anywhere in the world, a large solar project is proceeding without public subsidy.

SolarCity's plan is to outfit as many as 120,000 military homes with solar arrays in 33 states. The combined solar megawattage may come to 300 MW, about the capacity of a standard coal or natural gas generating plant--not small by any standard. The first installations already are taking place at the Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii. The next are expected in states with relatively high electricity prices.

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