Did Fallout from the Solyndra Debacle Lead to Canceled Loan Guarantees?
SolarCity says its failure to receive a DOE loan guarantee is tied to Solyndra’s bankruptcy, but the DOE says Solyndra is not a factor
Only a few weeks ago, it appeared as if photovoltaic specialist SolarCity was well on its way to launching Project SolarStrong, a $1 billion plan to install PV systems on 160,000 military residences. The project would double the number of residential rooftop systems in the U.S., according to its backers.
Then came solar company Solyndra’s filing for bankruptcy protection on September 6. And on September 23, SolarCity, based in Foster City, California, announced that it did not have enough time to comply with a newly announced request by the Department of Energy for additional documentation the DOE said it needed before it would guarantee $275 million of a $344 million loan for a major segment of SolarStrong, whose estimated total cost is $1 billion. The loan guarantee was needed to make the first segment of the project profitable for SolarCity.
The DOE technically has until September 30 to finalize its approval of the guarantee, but that deadline will be missed. An affiliate of investment firm US Renewables Group and Bank of America were lined up to make the loan.
SolarCity’s CEO, Lyndon Rive, told Bloomberg news that the Solyndra meltdown prompted the DOE request for additional information. “Because of the Solyndra bankruptcy, additional documentation and reviews were required that we couldn’t get done in the next five days,” Rive said. “Everyone has been very supportive of this project and if we had a little more time we could get it done.”
But a DOE spokesman, Damien LaVera, said Solyndra’s troubles had nothing to do with the snag in SolarCity’s quest for the loan guarantee. “All of the extensive due diligence and legal documentation simply cannot be completed by September 30,” LaVera said. “The questions surrounding the Solyndra application had no impact on other applications, including this one.”
In fact, SolarCity is not the only solar firm to stumble in pursuit of a DOE loan guarantee. Thin-film specialist First Solar announced on September 22 that it wouldn’t receive a $1.9 billion guarantee because it could meet the September 30 deadline. On the other hand, First Solar did land a $967 million guarantee in August for a project in Arizona, the Bloomberg story notes. And in recent weeks at least three other projects – one focused on ethanol production and two on renewable-energy installations – have secured DOE loan guarantees totaling $623 million.
Oct 5, 2011 9:04 AM ET