U.S. Bancorp and SolarCity have just embarked on a renewable energy tax equity fund that will be christened SolarStrong, a five-year, nationwide program that looks to get solar on the rooftops of privatized military housing.
The program has the potential to be the largest residential solar project in the U.S. -- and possibly the world -- at 300 megawatts of rooftops and up to 120,000 homes. (There were only 166,000 photovoltaic installations in the U.S. at the end of Q1 2011, according to GTM Research.)
It has proceeded despite a rejected DOE loan guarantee application.
U.S. Bancorp has participated in a number of tax equity funds with SolarCity and other solar rooftop financiers for a total of $570 million in addition to $120 million in wind power generation. The bank has made focused efforts to hire veterans or in the case of SolarStrong, to provide renewable power to military residences.
SolarStrong was almost derailed late last year when the Department of Energy informed SolarCity that it couldn't finalize the company's $275 million loan guarantee by the Sept. 30 deadline, attributing the decision to the requirements of the Solyndra documentation collection requested by Congress. Instead, armed with the documentation and rationale for this project, SolarCity found a willing partner in Bank of America, which had, in SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive's words, "become comfortable with this asset class." Rive added that the loan guarantee process provided the discipline to package the project to a lender.
The first glimpse of this project came in a story we reported on detailing how Hickam Communities and SolarCity started construction on one of the largest solar installations in Hawaii at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for more than 2,000 homes.
SolarCity expects SolarStrong to create thousands of temporary and full-time jobs. The company hopes to provide as many of those jobs as possible to U.S. veterans and military family members. On the subject of jobs, Rive notes that the recent trade claim by CASM could have a "massive impact on jobs" since the vast majority of U.S. solar jobs are "focused on the delivery" of solar rather than the manufacturing of hardware.
Other Renewable Energy Efforts by the Military
The U.S. military, certainly the nation's largest consumer of energy, is rapidly becoming a leader in the deployment of renewable energy.
In the interest of national security, the military is pursuing advanced batteries and novel biofuels for the battlefield and energy-efficient buildings and energy-independent bases for the home front. The Armed Forces are investing and enabling green technologies independently, through their own research (e.g., DARPA) and procurement (e.g., the Army’s new Energy Initiatives Office) processes, as well as in cooperation with the Department of Energy.
SolarStrong will help the DOD secure more of its energy from renewable sources in parallel with the utility grid.
We recently reported on a military effort in which the Departments of Agriculture and Energy teamed up with the Navy to spend up to $510 million over the next three years to advance drop-in biofuels for aviation and marine applications to power the military.
The U.S. Army announced the creation of an Energy Initiatives Office to help the agency centrally plan and deploy renewable energy projects. The Army is looking to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.
The Navy also announced a partnership with the DOE’s research arm, ARPA-E, to develop grid-level energy storage. The Navy has set some ambitious clean energy goals for the coming years, including having half of the energy used by the department come from alternative fuel or alternative sources by 2020.