Gaining a U.S. Edge on the German Solar Market

By now, it’s no surprise that Germany’s generous feed-in tariffs have generated unprecedented leaps in the country’s solar market. But what might be less well known is that a U.S. government agency can help U.S. companies tap into that burgeoning market.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is helping U.S. manufacturers and exporters of solar energy technology and products obtain the working capital to increase export sales to the German market. Capitol secured through credit lines helps U.S. companies work within Germany’s long term power purchase legislation. The Berkeley, California-based PowerLight Corporation, recently used a US$ 5 million working capital line of credit guaranteed by Ex-Im Bank to export its solar tracking technology for the 10 MW Bavaria Solarpark, the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project located on 30 acres of farmland in Bavaria, Germany. The lender, Union Bank of California headquartered in San Francisco, is an Ex-Im Bank delegated authority lender that can commit Ex-Im Bank’s working capital guarantee when the loan is processed. Ex-Im Bank’s working capital guarantee enables commercial lenders to provide working capital loans for U.S. exporters to fulfill export sales orders, and to use export-related inventory and accounts receivable as collateral to increase cash flow. The program is especially beneficial for small and medium-sized U.S. exporters, according to the bank. “Ex-Im Bank is committed to increasing support for U.S. exporters of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial goods and services,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman Philip Merrill said. “Our financing can help U.S. environmental exporters expand their international sales, even in developed markets such as Germany.” Now fully operational, Bavaria Solarpark is connected to the electrical grid by the regional Germany utility and the 10 MW of electricity it generates is enough to power 9,000 homes in the region. The purchase of solar energy technology and equipment for the project was supported by a 20-year power purchase from the German government. PowerLight supplied 57,600 silicon and aluminum panels for the construction of the project. “Ex-Im Bank’s working capital guarantee was instrumental in helping PowerLight get the project properly financed for a successful operation. We were able to obtain better terms from our lender with Ex-Im Bank’s guarantee,” said PowerLight’s Chief Financial Officer Jani Janakiraman. “Additionally, Union Bank’s expertise with Ex-Im Bank’s Working Capital Guarantee Program produced a competitive solution to a complex export transaction within the project completion schedule.” Massachusetts-based PV module manufacturer Evergreen Solar also tapped into a credit line through the Ex-Im bank for US$ 5 million. “Right now, our sales are expanding rapidly throughout the world, particularly in Germany,” Evergreen Solar Controller Mark Fidler said. “We were eligible for Ex-Im Bank’s working capital guarantee because a portion of our sales are generated in Germany and throughout Europe. Ex-Im Bank’s guarantee provided attractive financing to enable us to increase our working capital to meet demand for our products and to support our ongoing expansion plans.” In addition to its working capital guarantee, Ex-Im Bank provides financing for a broad range of renewable energy and other environmentally beneficial exports through its Environmental Exports Program. Under the program, the Bank provides an enhanced short-term environmental export insurance policy for small business exporters and also offers medium-term and long-term financing with features that include the maximum allowable repayment terms under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), capitalization of interest during construction, and local cost coverage equal to 15 percent of the U.S. contract price.
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