On September 7, SolarCity unveiled Project SolarStrong, a plan to install as many as 160,000 rooftop solar installations on 124 military housing complexes in 33 U.S. states.
Project SolarStrong will double the residential PV installations in the U.S., making it the largest residential solar project in the country’s history. The venture is expected to generate over $1 billion in solar projects and 371 megawatts of new solar generation capacity.
Working with military housing-privatization developers, SolarCity will own and operate the installations, while the owners of the military housing complexes will pay SolarCity for the electricity used. Currently 80 percent of SolarCity’s customers opt for a financing option – be it SolarLease® or a SolarPPA™ – rather than purchasing a system outright.
Photo Credit: SolarCity
Bank of America Merrill Lynch and USRG Renewable Finance, a subsidiary of U.S. Renewables Group, will serve as the lead lenders for the project. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced an offer of a conditional commitment for a partial guarantee of a $344 million loan from the financiers.
“Thanks to the Energy Department’s leadership and resolve, we can now bring an unprecedented opportunity to privatized military housing across the U.S.,” said Aaron Gillmore, SolarCity’s vice president of solar development. “We believe the SolarStrong model will deliver the most affordable solar option available to military housing, and provide a template for financing large-scale residential solar projects well into the future.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicts SolarStrong will create almost 6,000 installation- and maintenance-related jobs, positions that SolarCity hopes to fill with as many U.S. veterans and military family members as possible. The company currently operates in 11 states, and predicts this project will create jobs in up to 22 additional states.
The partnership is advantageous for the U.S. government, too. The Department of Defense is the largest single consumers of energy in the country; SolarStrong will help the DOD achieve its’ goal of drawing a quarters of its’ energy used from renewable sources by 2025.
The announcement comes just a week after Solyndra’s suspension of operations, which has put the DOE’s backing of innovative solar projects under scrutiny. However, the DOE’s support for SolarCity shows that the government is still looking to reinvigorate the solar industry. Importantly, the loan supports SolarCity’s successful financing options, rather than experimental technology development, as was the case with Solyndra.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was enthusiastic. “This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history,” he said in a statement announcing the deal. “It can also be a model for other large-scale rooftop solar projects that help America regain its lead in the solar industry.”