Big military housing solar project gets money it needed

After a $1 billion loan DOE guarantee fails to close, project leader SolarCity snags a financial commitment from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Remember the big SolarStrong project? It's the five-year, $1 billion initiative to build out solar technologies at U.S. military housing communities that saw its potential funding from the Department of Energy called into question in late September after the Solyndra debacle.

Well, the project appears back on track again after the organizer, SolarCity, announced a financing deal early this week with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. SolarCity said since the DOE had announced a conditional commitment to the program, that gave the ambitious credibility it needed to get the funding.

Said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive in a statement:

"BofA Merrill never wavered when the loan guarantee wasn't finalized, and worked with us to create a financing structure that works without it. SolarStrong makes affordable clean energy available on a much greater scale; this is uncharted territory for residential solar. The face that SolarStrong can move forward without a federal loan guarantee is a clear indication that long-term incentives such as the investment tax credit are working."

That's a big deal, since this happens to be the largest proposed residential solar project in U.S. history. It calls for approximately 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity to be built, serving as many as 120,000 military housing units.

This is turning out to be a good week for solar developers and the military. On Tuesday, Cogenra Solar, which makes a solar cogeneration system that will be used by Facebook, said it will be part of a $2 million contract to deliver hot water and electricity to a U.S. Navy base and a U.S. Army training center.

Cogenera hopes its deal with the Department of Defense will help build interest in its cogeneration technologies. It was one of 27 projects chosen from among 575 different proposals that the Defense Department has been considering as a way to meet its environment and energy goals.

If the agency is happy with the technology it could be deployed at more locations. The Defense Department currently has about 300,000 buildings, with 2.2 billion square feet of space and its spends more than $4 billion on "facility energy."

Cogenera's technology will get its start at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California, which will get a 242-kilowatt capacity rooftop array, and the Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, Calif., which will get a 121-kilowatt system.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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