US Energy Dept. Guarantees Another $4.8B In Solar Loans

The US Department of Energy has announced another $4.8B in questionable solar loan guarantees.

The timing of the loan approvals – coming immediately on the heels of the Solyndra solar manufacturing bankruptcy and related loss of $535M in tax payer funded loan guarantees – raises the first question – timing.

  • Use it or lose – Stimulus Funding –

There’s no question about the wisdom of capturing the sun’s rays and turning them in energy.

There is no question, either, that solar technology is and will be an important part of the US Innovation Economy.

But, its what and why that makes these DOE loan guarantees so interesting and so puzzling –

Who?  Just a partial list –

  • Goldman Sachs Lending Partners
  • Citicorp Global Markets Inc.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Venture capitalist Elon Musk – of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX fame — and
  • Venture capitalist Steve Westly – former CFO of E-Bay, one-term Democratic State Controller of California and one-time gubernatorial candidate

Investment banks – – another TARP, you might think?

And yes, according to the Huffington Post,  these two venture capitalists have contributed about $500K to the President –

More importantly, why are the loan guarantees needed?

More than $4B of the loan guarantees are being made for large scale solar generation plants in California and Nevada.   In each case, the loan is supported by a contract with  Pacific Gas and Electric(PG&E), Southern California Edison or Nevada Power Company.

Assuming each project has been proved through a pilot, they are very low risk commercial ventures that should attract adequate private financing.

Why should tax payers be put at greater risk than the beneficiary rate payers?

All three projects, together, will create less than 100 permanent jobs – so that can’t be the reason?

The ink may be dry on the guarantees but the dollars are not yet out the door.

Congress needs to ask and Secretary Chu needs to answer who and why before the they do —

 

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