On Saturday, July 5th 2010, President Obama announced his approval of the DOE loan guarantee for solar energy projects.  This $1.85 billion in funding takes advantage of last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). 

Other recent ARRA projects received a combined total of $76 million a few weeks ago.  These projects received federal funding to produce products that are unique to the sustainable construction industry and also train professionals to be familiar with this equipment and energy efficient building operations.  As all ARRA projects do, this funding ultimately is designed to stimulate the economy with domestic manufacturing, and increased job availability.  It is debated whether or not this money is being well invested in our economy to support these reasons.  However, to the benefit of the sustainable construction industry the loan guarantee has officially been approved. 

A large portion, $1.45 billion dollars, will go to Abengoa Solar.  The funding will set their Solana Project into the construction phase.  The Solana Project, in Gila Bend, AZ, aims to create a large scale solar plant that will produce 280-MW.  The construction will provide 1600 jobs and 85 permanent jobs once it is operational in 2013.  This will be one of the world’s largest solar power plants.  At the expense of over two billion dollars it will serve 70,000 homes. 

This is a strong indication of the initial expense of large-scale alternative energy sources.  It also has something to say about the fact that it is brand new technology.  Hopefully as more large-scale solar plants are built, the price of construction and technology will go down.  However, there is no doubt that developing clean energy sources nationwide will be very expensive and take decades.  This is not based on a forecast that every electrical company needs a solar power plant because this is not possible and doesn’t make sense for many regions of the country; however this caliber of new technology, when produced for large scale grid applications is very expensive. 

The lighter portion of the loan guarantee is a mere $400 million to manufacture thin-film solar panels at two factories.  An old Chrysler factory in Indiana will be the new location for one of the manufacturing plants.  The other factory expansion will be in Colorado.  Abound says it will provide 1500 jobs and continual production of solar panels.  A concern for the investment in Abound is presented when competition is considered.  The solar panel company First Solar already has a low-cost, thin-film panel in production.  Hopefully Abound is capable of producing equivalent technology at a similar price and it may work out that they play against each other to lower their market prices further.