Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Will Solar City's SolarStrong be Solyndra's casualty?

In these pages, in Debord Report, and elsewhere, the Solyndra bankruptcy and investigation have ran debate rampant over the question of what this whole fiasco does to other California companies. We have at least one answer, and it's not pretty. 

A few weeks back San Mateo-based SolarCity announced it got a $275 million loan guarantee for SolarStrong, a project to install residential rooftop solar at up to 124 military bases in 33 states. SolarCity says this project "has the potential to be the largest single residential solar electricity project in the world and would nearly double" the total number of residential solar installations in the US. 

Today it doesn't look like that loan's coming through. 

SolarCity says the Department of Energy has now told them that it won't be able to finalize approval for the loan guarantee before the program ends on September 30 "due to the increased documentation requirements that are the result of the current congressional investigation into the Solyndra bankruptcy."

SolarCity has written a letter to to Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, where they say stalling the project would be an economic fiasco of its own: 

Halting the project will mean sacrificing more than $1 billion of private investment into economically hard-hit military communities throughout the United States. It would also mean the loss of jobs we believe the project would create, many of which would have gone to veterans and the family members of our active duty military servicemen and women. We believe that the valuable work done to move the SolarStrong project to completion should not be lost because of the Solyndra bankruptcy.

Of course, SolarCity has sunk $3 million into the deal. And nobody's entitled to a loan guarantee, which is something people (but especially Republicans) have been saying a lot in Washington lately, even before the New York Times unloaded on Solyndra and the loan guarantee program today. 

Just this morning, Sierra Club's David Graham-Caso circulated a note arguing that solar is doing okay because it's growing fast and creating jobs. Apparently, Sungetivity is even hiring Solyndra's old workers already. All that may be true. Plus people did know the 1705 program was expiring September 30. But do you think this is the beginning of a stall? And the fun question: do we blame Solyndra, the Obama administration, or the opponents to the DOE program who have been dancing on Solyndra's grave for the fallout? 

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