Last Friday, July 3rd, in his weekly address to the nation, President Obama announced loan guarantees in the amount of nearly $2 billion for two solar companies here in the United States, reiterating his commitment to the growing U.S. renewable energy industry, which will aid in this country’s movement toward revitalization and the green economy.
The two companies ~ Abengoa Solar Inc., a Spanish firm, and Abound Solar of Loveland, CO ~ currently have projects underway, or in the planning stages, that will create a minimum of 3,500 short term jobs, and at least 1,500 long-term jobs, right here in the U.S. ~ and that’s not counting jobs in manufacturing the materials for the projects.
Abengoa Solar’s “Solana” project will build a large solar thermal electric power plant near Gila Bend, Arizona, the $1.45 billion in (conditional loan) funding needed for the project making up the larger portion of the $2 billion guaranteed by Federal Recovery funds. The construction of the Solana project will not only create 1600 jobs in Arizona, it will also increase the number of “jobs in communities and states up and down the supply chain,” as at least 70 percent of the components needed to construct the plant will be purchased from manufacturers right here in the U.S.
As the President observed, “this plant will be the first large-scale solar plant in the U.S. to actually store the energy it generates for later use” through solar thermal technology, also known as Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) for the way the solar energy is collected. When completed, on its site 70 miles south of Phoenix, the Gila Bend solar thermal power plant will generate 280 megawatts of power ~ enough to power 70,000 homes.
The company to receive the balance of the guaranteed funds ($400 million) is Abound Solar, and it will use the funds to build two solar Photovolatic (PV) panel manufacturing plants, one in Longmont, CO ~ the first production line of which is already in operation, having been built with private funding and venture capital ~ and one in Tipton, IN (go Blue Devils! [HS basketball], go Cardinals! [football] ), repurposing and expanding the old Chrysler manufacturing plant there.
Abound plans to use $100 million of the guaranteed loan funds to enlarge the Longmont facility, increasing its capacity to 200 megawatts per year by the end of 2011. The other $300 million will be used to rebuild and expand the plant in Tipton, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2013. When both the Colorado and the Indiana facilities are complete, Abound Solar projects that they will be producing more than 840 megawatts of PV modules every year.
Despite the promise of such endeavors, in some sectors, the Obama administration has been roundly criticized for “not creating enough jobs” and for its allocation of Recovery Act funds. Yet, as the President points out, after 22 months of losing jobs and a worsening economy, we have finally begun to gain in jobs, and consistently for the last six months. Those who believe that he hasn’t done enough for the recovery of our economy and hasn’t done it quickly enough, might do well to remember a couple of basic universal laws.
The first: “A body in motion tends to remain in motion, until acted upon by an outside force.” I’ll leave the connection here as an exercise for the reader.
The other I don’t know the “official” definition for, but it is related to the first and has to do with the energy it takes to stop a body in motion and reverse its direction (any of you scientists out there who know what I’m talking about feel free to chime in here .
Think of the recession as a runaway train. Metaphorically speaking, in late 2008, President Obama threw himself into the engine of this runaway train that was rapidly picking up speed and momentum, intent upon reversing it. Thing is, in order to reverse a runaway ~ anything ~ you have to stop it first. And if it’s something large, you have to do so very carefully. I think we can safely classify the recession as “something large.”
To avoid extending my fuzzy metaphor any further, I will say this: everyone knows it takes time and energy to stop a body in motion, and time and energy commensurate with that body’s size and speed. Then it takes more time and energy to get it going in the opposite direction and up to speed.
From that perspective, it seems pretty clear that the present administration, with its promotion of green jobs and the renewable energy industry, is right on track (sorry ~ couldn’t help myself) for the economic recovery.
See you on the green ~
Watch President Obama’s July 3rd address
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