California Energy Commission Expands Loans for Solar Companies

California Solar News – No one can say that California is not trying to push the jobs agenda forward here in California. I see headline after headline of stories of the state government hitting the ground running when it comes to solar and other renewable energy sources. Solar jobs are good for the economy. Solar jobs are good for the country. Solar jobs are good for our children’s future on many levels. Read More Solar News –

Sunpluggers ; The California Energy Commission has approved three loans totaling more than $10.5 million for California-based manufacturers of solar products that are planning to expand their operations, retaining or creating more than 400 jobs.

Although many sectors of the national economy remain stalled, a total of about 50 solar related manufacturing companies throughout the United States have announced plans in the past year to establish new factories or to expand existing solar operations. That doesn’t include many new or expanded operations related to electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

Most of these expansions are scheduled to begin before the end of 2011, according to companies’ announcements. A proposal outlined by President Obama in a speech Wednesday in Ohio would offer companies an accelerated tax break on spending for new equipment or facilities before the end of 2011. Companies in the solar industry, where the groundswell of planned expansions has been virtually invisible to those not attentive to recent developments, would be clear beneficiaries of tax cuts for equipment and plant investments made during the next 15 months.

The president alluded to the solar and electric vehicle industries during his speech in Ohio, saying, “We see a future where we invest in American innovation and American ingenuity; where we export more goods so we create more jobs here at home; where we make it easier to start a business or patent an invention; where we build a homegrown, clean energy industry because I don’t want to see new solar panels or electric cars or advanced batteries manufactured in Europe or Asia. I want to see them made right here in the U.S. of A by American workers.

The low-interest loans approved this week in California are part of the state’s Clean Energy Business Financing Program, which is providing about $30 million in federal stimulus money to eligible businesses that create or retain clean energy manufacturing jobs in the Golden State like solar.

“California is investing funds from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to rebuild our shrinking manufacturing sector, helping it retool for a new, more robust, and competitive green solar economy that can put Californians back to work,” said Karen Douglas, Energy Commission chairwoman, in a news release. “In this continuing economic downturn, the Clean Energy Business Financing Program provides money to local green solar companies unable to access capital from lenders and banks.”

Through the program, loans of $50,000 to $5 million are being made available at 2.75 percent interest to companies producing energy efficiency or renewable energy products, components, systems and solar technologies. Loan funds were also available for projects producing biomethane gas from biomass that is direct injected into natural-gas transmission lines. The loans may only be used to purchase and install equipment to manufacture solar and other renewable energy products.

Proposals from the selected companies were among 44 submitted to the program and evaluated by the Energy Commission and other agencies. Proposed solar loan awards were subsequently announced for seven companies, including Stion Corp., Energy Innovations Inc. and Soliant. Loans for those three companies were approved Wednesday, Sept. 8.

A recent amended notice of proposed awards changed the number of companies to eight, adding two and removing one.
Following is a summary of the approved loans to the three California-based photovoltaic solar system producers: Stion Corp. will receive a $5 million loan to expand its manufacturing capacity for high efficiency, thin-film solar modules at its San Jose factory. The total cost of the project is approximately $22.2 million, with the company providing the remainder of the financing not supplied by the Energy Commission’s loan. By December 2011, the improvements are expected to increase the annual capacity of the photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant by 140 megawatts a year and to add or retain 73 full-time equivalent jobs.

Energy Innovations Inc. will use a government loan of $3,493,797 to purchase equipment for its new factory and headquarters in Poway. The manufacturing operation builds highly concentrated photovoltaic solar systems for commercial and industrial use and will have an annual capacity of 60 megawatts when completed at the end of 2011. The project will create or retain an estimated 240 full-time equivalent jobs manufacturing solar related equipment . The loan provides roughly half of the $7,038,601 cost of the project, with Energy Innovations providing the rest.

Solar Energy Inc. will purchase equipment for its concentrated solar photovoltaic solar panel factory in San Bernardino with its loan of $2,089,711. The factory will have a capacity of 40 megawatts annually and is expected to be finished as early as October 2011. The project will create or retain an estimated 118 full-time equivalent jobs. The total project cost is nearly $9 million. Soliant Energy Inc. will provide the amount above the Energy Commission’s solar loan.

Once the new manufacturing equipment is installed, all three of the solar companies are expected to repay the loans within seven years.

Calisolar, a Silicon Valley solar cell manufacturer, was awarded a $5 million loan from the Energy Commission program at the commission’s Aug. 25 meeting.

More solar information can be found by going to the California Energy Commission website.