The US military is becoming a major proponent of the renewable energy industry and, with this financing, will build the largest rooftop solar project in the US.
"Project SolarStrong" will double the number of residential solar systems in the US by installing 160,000 rooftop systems at 124 military housing developments.
SolarCity will build, own and operate the solar installations, which will generate about 371 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity.
The developers say Project SolarStrong will create over $1 billion in solar projects across 33 states.
Residential solar installer SolarCity lined up financing – including a $344 million partial loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy (DOE) – for the projects.
"This is the largest domestic residential rooftop solar project in history," says Energy Secretary Chu. "This groundbreaking project is expected to create hundreds of jobs for Americans and provide clean, renewable power to our military families. It can also be a model for other large-scale rooftop solar projects."
US Renewables Group is acting as lead lender, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch will provide debt financing. The DOE loan guarantee is for $344 million.
SolarCity, which currently employs 1,200 people in 11 states, says it will create new solar jobs and help jumpstart the renewable energy industry in 22 additional states, some of which have very little solar generation capacity today.
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) Jobs and Economic Development Impact model, the SolarStrong installations would be expected to create nearly 6,000 direct job-years related to the installation and ongoing maintenance of the systems.
In addition to residences at military bases, solar will be installed community centers, administrative offices, maintenance buildings and storage warehouses.
The project will be rolled out over five years, starting with a 4 MW installation at Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii, where construction is already underway. When completed, that project alone will provide renewable energy to over 2,000 military family homes.
"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," says Aaron Gillmore, SolarCity’s vice president of solar development.
The SolarStrong project will help the Department of Defense (DOD) – the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S. – secure its energy needs from renewable sources operated in parallel with the utility grid. DOD has a stated goal to migrate to greater than 25% renewable energy generation by the year 2025.
Other recent announcements regarding the military and renewable energy include the announcement of a task force to coordinate large-scale renewable energy projects and $510 million for aviation and marine biofuels.