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Large Solar Project Proceeds on a Commercial Basis

SolarCity wins private financing without Federal government guarantee

1 min read
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.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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