During a time when the headlines are filled with news about federal budget cuts, the Department of Energy continues to write some large checks to aid the clean energy industry.
This week, the Department of Energy finalized a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for Oakland, Calif.,-based BrightSource Energy to launch a 392-megawatt solar thermal project. (This is the project also funded by Google.) The next day another loan guarantee was announced, this time for SunPower Corp, which got $1.18 billion in federal loan guarantees for the financing of a 250-megawatt photovoltaic solar project in Central California that is expected to power 100,000 homes.
In total, the DOE says it has issued nearly $19 billion in federal loan guarantees for 21 clean energy projects around the United States, according to Reuters.
So how did this happen when other programs like a wild lands designation for millions of acres in the West and clean water programs ended up on the cutting room floor? The answer is jobs. In February, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives tried to eliminate the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program for green energy projects. But a Reuters report points out that those Republicans failed to gain support for their bill because of jobs. “The alternative energy industry, in response, argued that the program would create tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in investment.” After surviving the first attempt to cut the program in February, the program apparently escaped cuts during the April budget debate.
All of the loan guarantees approved by the Energy Department thus far are expected to assist in projects that will begin as early as this fall, which is — coincidently — when the next budget deal will have to be struck.