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Lining up at the Money Trough

October 4, 2011

After the Solyndra debacle, it’s interesting to see how utilities and other investors lined up at the federal tax payer money trough.

There must have been several billion dollars of tax payer money used this year to guarantee loans and make outright grants to wind, solar, geothermal and IGCC projects.

Here are a few I know about.

  • A $737 million loan guarantee for the development of a 110-MW concentrating solar power tower facility in Nevada, backing Tonopah Solar Energy’s Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.
  • A partial guarantee for a $168.9 million loan to Granite Reliable Power for a 99-MW wind generation project in New Hampshire.
  • A $350 million loan guarantee to support a 113-MW geothermal power project in Nevada.
  • A two-year $500,000 grant from the DOE to develop ways to reduce the cost of offshore wind generation by at least 25%.
  • A $90.6 million loan guarantee for 30-MW High Concentration Solar Photovoltaic (HCPV) generation project in south-central Colorado.
  • A $2.1 billion loan guarantee for a 484-MW concentrating solar thermal plant to be built near Blythe, in Riverside County, California.
  • A $1.6 billion loan guarantee for the 392-MW Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, consisting of three utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in California.
  • A $1.187 billion conditional loan guarantee for SunPower’s California Valley Solar Ranch 250-MW PV project.
  • Nearly $170 million in available funding over three years as part of the SunShot Initiative to support a range of solar PV technologies.
  • A $681.6 million conditional loan guarantee for NextEra Energy’s 250 MW Genesis Solar Project.

Some of the companies who received loan guarantees are foreign companies, which puts the tax payer in the position of supporting foreign firms.

DOE can provide reasons why each of these activities is worthwhile, but the question remains, “Why should the government spend tax payer money on projects that probably don’t result in a good return on investment? Especially if it’s to support foreign companies?

Furthermore, if it wasn’t for Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that require utilities to provide their customers with electricity from renewable sources, these power plants wouldn’t be built.

Tax payers, many of whom are also rate payers, get hit twice: First by the government using their tax money to support these projects, and then as rate payers having to pay for the very expensive electricity produced by these plants.

Solyndra should be a wake-up call and the government should get out of the business of picking winners and losers and providing funds for questionable projects.

Worthwhile projects will be funded by Venture Capitalists, private investors and banks.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. G. Neil Midkiff permalink
    October 6, 2011 8:01 am

    Good analysis, Donn. Dreams of clean energy and clean jobs will not overcome market forces, the laws pf physics or the laws of economics.

  2. October 6, 2011 9:29 am

    Thanks.
    You have succinctly summarized the issues surrounding clean energy.

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