DOE awards $344M conditional partial loan guarantee to SolarCity to install PV on military rooftops

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In what’s likely to be one of many similar announcements over the next few weeks, the US Department of Energy awarded another conditional commitment for a partial loan guarantee, this time for $344 million to a program that will bring solar PV to tens of thousands of residential and other rooftops on US military bases. The project, code named SolarStrong, will be led by SolarCity, with USRG Renewable Finance acting as lead lender in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

SolarStrong, which could create up to 371MW of new solar power generation capacity, includes the installation of residential rooftop PV systems on existing privatized military family residences and other privatized buildings, such as community centers, administrative offices, maintenance buildings, and storage warehouses. 

SolarCity will install, own, and operate up to 160,000 rooftop PV systems on as many as 124 U.S. military bases in up to 33 states. The company expects the project, which could generate up to $1 billion in revenue, to fund approximately 750 construction jobs over five years and 28 full-time operating jobs. 

Many of the jobs are expected to be filled by U.S. veterans and military family members, who will be recruited, trained, and employed to install, operate and maintain the PV systems.

The project will be rolled out over five years, starting with a 4MW installation already under construction at Hickam Communities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam which is a coordinated effort between real estate developer Lend Lease and SolarCity. When completed, that system will provide renewable power to more than 2000 military family homes.

SolarStrong is expected to sell electricity produced from the projects through long-term electricity sales agreements or lease solar systems through long-term lease contracts.

USRG Renewable Finance submitted the application under the Financial Institution Partnership Program, in which DOE guarantees up to 80% of a loan provided to a renewable energy project by qualified financial institutions. 

“This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history,” said DOE Secretary Steven 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.”

“We’re extremely grateful to the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, in addition to our partners, U.S. Renewables Group and BofA Merrill Lynch,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of Solar City. “Without this group, we would not have been able to make the economics of this project work. Now the solar industry has a debt model that can make distributed generation affordable on a massive scale.”

SolarStrong will help the Department of Defense, the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S., meet its energy needs from renewable sources operated in parallel with the utility grid. DOD has a stated goal to migrate to greater than 25% renewable energy generation by the year 2025.

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