A leading American solar company is set to begin the largest residential rooftop project ever undertaken, effectively doubling the number of solar systems currently on homes around the U.S.
Armed with funds from two major investment banks and a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy that will cover close to a third of the $1 billion project, SolarCity plans to install 160,000 solar photovoltaic systems on houses and other buildings on military bases around the country in the next five years.
As a “solar services” provider, SolarCity owns, operates and maintains the systems, and sells the electricity to the end-user. By working with investment banks to pool together often-complicated state and federal incentives, the company streamlines the process and simply offers the customer solar electricity — often at prices lower than current electric rates.
Given the relentless attack on green jobs and the DOE’s loan guarantee program in recent weeks, this story is particularly relevant.
SolarCity says it will try to employ American veterans and family members for the 750 people needed to complete the project, showing that green jobs do indeed exist. The company has seen extraordinary growth in recent years. After starting in 2006 with just two people, SolarCity has added over 600 employees since 2006. And this latest project will again double the staff.
The $344 million loan guarantee will leverage $1 billion from private investors Bank of America Merrill Lynch and USRG Renewable Finance. This comes after Google invested $280 million in a fund for SolarCity installations this past June.
With the bankruptcy of the solar company Solyndra last week, the Department of Energy loan guarantee program has been under major attack. What critics don’t mention is that the $535 million set aside for Solyndra is only two percent of all loan commitments to clean energy companies, and is dwarfed by the tens of billions of dollars leveraged by the program.
The DOE loan guarantee program is designed to fund “first-of-a kind” projects. As an ambitious 160,000-system undertaking, this project is exactly that. But it’s also a very safe bet. SolarCity is a company with a proven business model and a history of strong, sustainable growth.
You can bet that the critics who claim green jobs “don’t exist” or solar power “doesn’t work” will be ignoring this piece of news.