(Bloomberg News) The Obama administration, defying congressional Republicans after the failure of solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, is working to award as much as $9.2 billion in government financing to renewable energy companies before a Sept. 30 deadline.
Loan guarantees for 14 companies will close by month's end if the projects meet government lending rules, Damien LaVera, a Department of Energy spokesman, said in an interview. "We want to get as many of these done in a way that responsibly protects the taxpayers' interest," he said. "If they meet conditions set out in the agreement, then they'll close."
Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6, after receiving $535 million in loan guarantees from the administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided its Fremont, California, headquarters two days later. Republicans have called Solyndra a "poster child" for the failure of clean-energy subsidies awarded by the Department of Energy under President Barack Obama.
"I am very concerned about where the $10 billion DOE has left to spend before the September 30 deadline is going," Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, said at the Sept. 14 hearing of a House oversight panel he heads. "Taxpayers would be better served by not risking even more of their money, instead using it to reduce our mounting national deficit."
Obama's stimulus program, passed by Congress in 2009, set the Sept. 30 deadline for loan guarantees for most alternative energy projects. Programs to invest in advanced-technology vehicles and nuclear power plants will continue.
Third To Fail
Solyndra was the third U.S. solar manufacturer to fail in a month as lower-cost Chinese panels and weak global demand drive a wave of industry consolidation. Solyndra, the only one of the three with a federal guarantee, produced cylindrical devices that convert sunlight into electricity using copper-indium-gallium-diselenide thin-film technology. Standard solar panels are flat.
Nine of the pending loan guarantees are for construction of solar-power stations and one is for a wind farm, projects that carry less risk than manufacturing because the power they will produce is already sold, according to Shyam Mehta, senior analyst for GTM Research, a Boston-based analysis firm.
"Those I think are relatively low-risks investments," Mehta said in an interview. "These farms are going to generate energy and are going to be paid a price for the electricity generated based on power-purchase agreements."
Wind, Corn Cobs