Program That Backed Solyndra Now Showing Success

Joe Weinlick
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A controversial stimulus program from the federal government, criticized by Republicans during the Obama administration, seems to be generating jobs several years after the program's implementation. Clean energy loan guarantees in 2008 from the U.S. Department of Energy helped fund several private enterprises in places that previously saw little economic activity. reports Solyndra was one of four companies that went bankrupt, costing taxpayers $780 million despite clean energy loan guarantees from the federal government. A total of 30 companies received funding, and 20 have brought in revenue six years after the fact. One example is the Abengoa biorefinery in the tiny southwestern Kansas hamlet of Hugoton. The plant does precisely what the Department of Energy loans were designed for; it creates jobs and makes clean energy.

The town, which has 3,900 residents, has a new discount retail store, a new hotel and a second grocery store thanks to the world's largest cellulosic biorefinery. The operation takes non-edible agricultural waste products, such as wood waste and non-feed energy crops, and turns them into 25 million gallons of biofuels annually. The site has 75 workers. Truckers passing through the town must stop to eat, sleep and buy supplies. New construction for retail outlets requires more workers, more supplies and more transportation. The $132 million clean energy loan to Abengoa did more than just build the plant. It stimulated an entire town's economy in five years.

Tesla Motors also received a sizable federal clean energy loan worth $465 million and paid back the loan 10 years early. The car company looks to build a huge battery plant in Nevada for future production, but the profitability of the company may not have been as great without the federal loan. The battery facility should employ approximately 6,000 people. A high-concentration photovoltaic energy generator in Colorado has 10 permanent jobs, plus extra jobs in the supply line.

Even after the apparent success of the clean energy loan program, Republicans claim the companies with taxpayer money need oversight. The Obama administration states the loans will bring a profit of $5 to $6 billion to the federal government in 20 years while saving or creating 35,000 jobs. In 2012, a report claimed 50,000 new jobs in the clean energy sector were created due to government programs and more demand. Jobs such as administrative professionals, project managers and engineers are needed for future expansion. Colleges took notice and implemented educational opportunities and internships for these potential jobs.

Many of these economic indicators do not take into account energy savings, assistance to a growing clean energy industry and the reduction of costs for green energy initiatives over the long term. Add in energy independence for Americans, and the benefits of the program go well beyond just money in employees' pockets.

Despite Solyndra's downfall in 2009, the clean energy loan guarantee program worked more times than it failed. The difficulty with such long-term investments is that sometimes investors, namely the American taxpayers, do not reap the profits until much later.


Photo courtesy of Naypong at



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