President Obama took the occasion of Independence Day to announce that the federal government will authorize $2 billion of Recovery Act funding to support the solar industry. Administered by the Department of Energy, the funds will target two companies: Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing.
Abengoa – an international solar firm with its roots in Spain—plans to build the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant in Arizona. The company says the facility, dubbed the Solana Project, will produce enough energy to power 70,000 households. The plant will use thermal storage equipment to parabolically recover energy for a 280 MW output capacity. The administration says the project will create 1,600 construction jobs.
Abound Solar produces next-generation thin–film photovoltaic modules designed for use in systems utilizing large scale, grid connected solar arrays – from one-tenth of an acre to hundreds of acres – in a variety of climates. The company will build two new plants in Colorado and Indiana that will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and over 1,500 permanent jobs.
The choice of the two companies may indicate the direction that the Obama administration intends to take in advance of the passage of comprehensive energy legislation. Over the last several years, clean energy companies have been heading overseas to China and Europe, where government policies have created a more hospitable environment for green manufacturing and a promising market for clean energy products. A recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts confirmed that China has overtaken the United States in clean energy investment. This may have finally put American policy makers and investors on notice: either act boldly to support clean energy manufacturing, sustainable investment initiatives and green jobs, or continue to take a back seat to China and Europe, which are committed to shaping a robust, clean energy future.
Driving the point home in his weekly radio address, the President said of the funding, “The Department of Energy will help the U.S. transition to a “clean energy economy” that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in the future.”
Photo: Jeremy Levine