When Green Goes Bust, Obama Doubles Down

Solar Millenium

Solar Trust of America

A123 Systems


What do these names have in common?  Several things actually.  They are all green energy companies, touted by President Obama as models for the new green economy.  Each of them has received some form of federal help, tax breaks, direct grants and/or loan guarantees – cumulatively in the billions of taxpayer dollars.  Finally, each of them has joined Solyndra and a host of other green energy companies in filing for bankruptcy in the past three months – three of them filed in the last week alone.

Ener1 and A123 Systems are companies that were attempting to improve upon or create new batteries for electric vehicles. Ener1 owns a company that received $118 million from the federal government to develop batteries for hybrid/electric vehicles.  A123 got an even more government largesse: $300 million from the federal government and $135 million from Governor Jennifer Granholm, Democrat from Michigan.  In return for the money the companies promised jobs and new technologies – neither promise was kept and taxpayers are more than $418 million poorer.

And then there’s the solar duo, parent and child.  Solar Millenium  a German based solar company – among the largest in the world – filed for bankruptcy in Germany.  This might not concern us except for the fact that Solar Trust of America – in the process of building the largest solar power plant in the world in California – is a wholly owned subsidiary of Solar Millenium.  Solar Trust of America, which had projected its solar farm would create more than 8,000 direct and indirect jobs, declared bankruptcy one day before it was supposed to make a $1 million lease payment to the Department of Interior for the lease payment it planned on using for the solar farm.  Before all of this bad news, Solar Trust had secured a $2.1 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. government – the 2nd largest loan guarantee ever offered by the Department of Energy.  Just three months later, California’s Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar praised the project at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project.

We don’t currently know how much the U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for but with a $2.1 billion bill possibly coming due it could make Solyndra’s little $500 million dollar taxpayer “oops” seem small by comparison.

President Obama’s response to all this “activity” in the green energy industry?  Let’s spend more taxpayer dollars in the vain hope that throwing good money after bad, just this once, might really improve the situation.

Another small green energy item of note.    A year ago, a Reno clean energy businessman warned the Public Utilities Commission that if it didn’t set a few standards for NV Energy’s wind rebate program, its customers could end up footing the bill for turbines that rarely produce electricity, because to be eligible for rebates, customers didn’t need to prove that the wind actually blows enough to justify installing a turbine on their property.

The warning was ignored – but spot on.  The electricity produced by NV Energy’s $46 million wind rebate program is minimal; far short of expectations.  For instance, the city of Reno’s wind turbines — for which the city received more than $150,000 in rate-payer funded rebates — produced dramatically less electricity than the manufacturers of its turbines promised.  Indeed, one turbine that cost the city $21,000 to install saved the city $4 on its energy bill. Overall, $416,000 worth of turbines have netted the city $2,800 in energy savings.

Ain’t those green energy promises grand!  For more on this story go to the Las Vegas Sun.


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