SoloPower Gets Its DOE Loan Guarantee

With time running out on a key federal loan guarantee program intended to boost renewable energy production and technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today finalized another loan deal, backing $197 million for SoloPower to build a thin-film solar manufacturing plant in Oregon.

Word of the SoloPower loan guarantee being finalized will come as a big relief in Portland, where officials wooed SoloPower after the company’s plan to build a plant in suburban Wilsonville fell through due to local objection to incentives the city was offering. The loan guarantee will also provide funding to help expand SoloPower’s plant in San Jose, Calif., where the company is headquartered.

SoloPower federal loan guarantee

image via SoloPower

SoloPower has attracted excitement with a manufacturing process described by the DOE as “innovative” and yielding “low-cost, high efficiency copper, indium, gallium and (di) selenide (‘CIGS’) -based photovoltaic cells.” In all, SoloPower estimates the federal loan backing will help create around 270 construction jobs followed by 450 permanent jobs.

The SoloPower guarantee falls under the federal Section 1705 program that will disappear at the conclusion of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. These loan guarantees have been especially attractive to companies because the government allocated about $2.5 billion to cover the credit subsidy costs for the loans. These fees – amounting to about 10 percent of each loan’s value – are pooled together to cover the government’s losses in the event a small portion of the loans go belly-up.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.