Loan Guarantees To Canada For U.S. Jobs?

When Americans hear about the Export-Import Bank of the United States loaning money in foreign countries, they can get a little worked up. But theoretically, at least, the bank’s programs can make sense, because they help finance the purchase of U.S. equipment, products and services in situations where commercial loans aren’t otherwise available.

Case in point: The Ex-Im is guaranteeing some $455 million in loans to two solar power projects in Ontario, Canada, that the bank says will support 550 jobs at a First Solar manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio. These are the bank’s biggest financing moves ever in support of the U.S. solar industry.

First Solar project in Ontario

image via First Solar

EcoSeed was first to detail this development, which will see the Ex-Im bank provide guarantees supporting commercial loans to project borrowers for the purchase of First Solar equipment and services for a 50-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) project in the Ontario towns of Amherstburg, Belmont and Walpole, and a 40-MW PV project in St. Clair.

First Solar worker, Ohio

image via First Solar

The bank noted that First Solar is the parent company of First Solar Development Canada, which is doing the Ontario projects – so in essence, these loans are to First Solar. “The transactions are supporting First Solar’s export of these services in addition to its Series 3 thin-film cadmium telluride solar-PV modules,” the bank said. Xantrex Technology USA, in Elkhart, Ind., a subsidiary of Schneider Electric, will also realize sales of power inverters for these projects.

Electricity produced by the projects will be sold under multiple 20-year power-purchase agreements to the Ontario Power Authority under Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program, the bank said. The loans will have 18-year repayment terms.

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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.