Have you seen the latest news about SolarCity’s deal with the U.S. military to install solar on 160,000 military housing units? CNN reported that the deal is 100% privately financed (with federal backing) and that SolarCity will put up to 160,000 rooftop solar installations on top of privately-run military housing complexes at 124 military bases across 34 states. That is an astounding number of installations! Consider that there were only 16,000 solar installations in the past year, so this deal alone is a ten-fold increase (although there was no mention of how long it would take to complete that many installations).
While the CNN report was light on details, here’s what this deal means for you, me, and America:
1 – Solar Jobs! 160,000 solar installations should mean 6,000 solar jobs, plus the manufacturing jobs and the ongoing maintenance jobs.
2 – Enhanced National Security: Did you know that each major military installation strives to be completely self-sufficient? This usually means having local power generation that can isolate a military base from the civilian grid in the event of a crisis (or other domestic emergency). By installing solar panels on the service member homes, this self-sufficiency requirement becomes a lot easier to manage! Additionally, if there is a domestic emergency, anything that can be done to reassure soldiers that their families are taken care of is a good thing and means that they will be more focused on the mission at hand.
3 – American Clean Energy Leadership: The volume of installations means that the American market for installed solar panels will likely remain #1 for years to come. This is very important because researchers, designers, manufacturers , distributors, innovators, etc. all want to be close to the action. If the action is happening in the U.S., then we have a better chance of keeping that stuff (vs having it all move to China). Hopefully, the deal has a “Buy American” clause in it. However, I would not hold my breath on that one.
4 – Reduced Solar Costs and Increase Installations (beyond the military): Solar panel installation costs have been dropping every year. As solar installers and companies get more experience, they become more efficient. This massive amount of installations will provide the industry with a very experienced solar installer base that should then be able to turn their experience (and lower costs) loose on the private market.
5 – Good for the environment: Obviously, this is good for the environment if we will be able to generate a few hundred megawatts of electricity from renewable energy instead of coal, gas, or nuclear power.
I am excited about this deal! This is smart government! Not small and not big government but smart government at work. As it stands right now, the federal government will not lay out any money for all of the above benefits (granted they are accepting risk by guaranteeing the loans). Good job to the military employees that put this deal together!
If you would like to learn more about solar check out our Solar PV Associate page or call us at (800) 460-2575.