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Solyndra probe extends to three more solar companies

Solyndra probe extends to three more solar companies

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Three solar companies that received loan guarantees in the final hours of the federal program have been swept up in the investigation of now defunct Solyndra.

Three solar companies that received loan guarantees in the final hours of the federal program have been swept up in the investigation of now defunct Solyndra. GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, of California, chairman of the House oversight committee, has demanded the Energy Department turn over documents relating to the $4.75 billion in loan guarantees that were approved the day the program ended, the Hill reported.

The development not only marks an increasing suspicion of the clean energy loan guarantee program, but also threatens to delay four utility-scale solar power generation projects.

The loan guarantees now being questioned were awarded to First Solar, SunPower and Prologis to build three utility-scale power projects in California and one massive rooftop solar project that will involve up to 28 states. The loan guarantee program ended Sept. 30 mired in controversy over the DOE's backing of Solyndra, a solar manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy last month.

The Hill obtained an Oct. 7 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu from Issa, who expressed concern about the four solar power projects approved at the end of September. He wrote:

$4.75 billion in loan guarantees given on the last day of the program raise similar concerns that the evaluation of loan guarantee may have been rushed to meet the deadline.

The risk profile for utility-scale projects is very low compared to providing loans to clean energy manufacturers like Solyndra, GTM Research Senior Analyst Brett Prior told me in a phone interview last month regarding the DOE loan program. Large-scale project developers lock in long-term contracts with a single utility to sell it power. The upfront cost of building the project might be high. However, they have a low operating cost, Prior said at the time.

Photo: Flickr user zzzack, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure