Anti–solar power leadership in Congress is all set to put the kibosh on the Department of Energy’s loan program in an upcoming vote, but there will be a 290-megawatt gorilla at roll call: Arizona’s massive Agua Caliente photovoltaic power plant, which is a standout example of the loan program’s overall success.
Agua Caliente is still under construction, but the plant’s operators have just ramped it up to 250 megawatts, which already makes it the largest operating photovoltaic power plant in the world.
No More Solyndras, No More Jobs
Our friends over at The Hill report that Congress will vote later this week on the “No More Solyndras Act,” a Republican-sponsored bill that would severely curtail the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee program.
Though the GOP is apparently milking the effort to undercut President Obama’s odds for re-election (The Hill notes that “House lawmakers will hold an array of hearings and votes this week that will provide fresh chances to cast President Obama’s green agenda as an affront to the economy”), the Loan Guarantee Program is not a creation of the President’s administration.
The program was established under the Bush administration in 2005, and its success has been well documented in the growth of the U.S. alternative energy sector since then.
As for the notorious Solyndra bankruptcy, from its inception the loan program had risk built into its DNA, and it was designed to absorb those risks. An independent report earlier this year suggested some tweaks but confirmed the overall integrity of the program.
The Agua Caliente project alone has been credited with creating about 400 jobs, which would not exist today, along with thousands of others, if not for the loan guarantee program.
Global Solar Leadership for the U.S.A.
It’s an open secret that today’s Republican Party makes no bones about killing off job-creating federal initiatives for political gain, even ones that enjoyed bipartisan support just a few years ago.
Adding insult to injury, this scorched-earth strategy could have long-lasting consequences for America’s ability to become a global leader in exporting new energy technologies.
Growing the domestic alternative energy sector is only part of the aim of the Loan Guarantee Program. The program also seeks to carve out a leadership post for the U.S. in the white-hot global alternative energy market.
Agua Caliente, for example, incorporates two innovations that have enabled the project to come online in stages, with the first 30 megawatts turned on just seven months after construction started in the fall of 2010.
Republican leadership should be reminded of the long history of scorched-earth operations, in which military campaigns are often won, but at great cost to civilian life and livelihood.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.