US Government Backs Nation’s Largest Residential Solar Power Project

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced conditional partial backing of a $344 million loan for a project that will see the installation of up to 160,000 home solar power systems.
   
The support is for the SolarStrong initiative, which focuses on installing rooftop solar panels on homes situated on as many as 124 U.S. military bases.
   
SolarCity Corporation will install, own and operate the systems and expects the project to generate approximately 750 construction jobs over five years and 28 full time operating jobs; many of which will go to  U.S. veterans and military family members. According to modelling from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories’ (NREL), the SolarStrong installations are expected to create nearly 6,000 direct job-years related to the installation and ongoing maintenance of the solar power systems.
  
“This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history,” said Secretary Chu. “This groundbreaking project is expected to create hundreds of jobs for Americans and provide clean, renewable power to our military families. It can also be a model for other large-scale rooftop solar projects that help America regain its lead in the solar industry.”
  
Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, said the arrangement heralds the creation of a debt model for the solar industry that can make distributed electricity generation affordable “on a massive scale”.
   
The SolarStrong project could create up to 371 megawatts of new solar capacity and is expected to avoid over a quarter of a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The initiative will also help the Department of Defense (DOD) reach its goals of 25 percent of all electricity consumed being supplied  from renewable sources by 2025. The DOD is the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S.
 
The project will be rolled out over five years, commencing with a 4 megawatt solar panel installation at Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii, which is already under construction.
 
SolarCity has been involved with a number of major solar projects in the USA. In June this year, Google announced the creation of a USD$280 million fund to finance residential solar power installations; which will be installed by SolarCity. That initiative is Google’s largest single investment in the clean energy sector to date.