$1 Billion Solar Project Goes Ahead Without DOE Backing

Months after saying that it would have to scale back plans on military bases across the U.S., SolarCity announced Wednesday that it has secured financing and will move ahead with its $1 billion SolarStrong rooftop project.

The company had received a conditional loan guarantee from the Department of Energy this summer, but it was unable to close the deal ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. At the time, the company said the Solyndra bankruptcy and the increased scrutiny of the DOE program derailed the conditional agreement. The company also said in September that it was planning to forge ahead with a much smaller version of the military program.

But now the project seems to be back on track even without the federal support. SolarCity and BofA Merrill, an original lender on the DOE application, continued to work to close SolarStrong without the loan guarantee.

In a press release, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said BofA Merrill worked to come up with a financing structure that did not include a federal safety net. He also credited long-term incentives like the investment tax credit for providing the stability needed to structure such a deal.

On Wednesday, the company said the five-year program is expected to create up to 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity that could provide power to as many as 120,000 military housing units. Under the conditional DOE agreement announced in early September, the company said the program would install 160,000 rooftop installations on as many as 124 bases in up to 33 states, and it would have a capacity of 371 megawatts. As of Wednesday, it remained unclear whether the program would go into as many states and on as many bases.

Regardless, SolarStrong could become the largest residential solar photovoltaic project in the country, and yet another example of the growing partnership between renewable energy companies and the military. SolarCity will install, own and operate rooftop solar installations on the bases and provide solar electricity at a lower cost than utility power.

It also hopes to create thousands of full-time and temporary jobs. Many of the jobs are expected to go to U.S. veterans and military family members.

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