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December 01, 2011

Big Solar Plans for Military Families

SolarCity_Residence_Woodside3How do you double the number of houses that have rooftop solar? Ask SolarCity, which is moving ahead with its ambitious 5-year plan to provide 300 megawatts worth of solar for military families.

SolarCity announced yesterday a partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch that will help finance the project that clocks in at more than $1 billion. Amid the rocky political climate, the project became uncertain after a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy fell through earlier this year. But this private financing should nudge the project -- named SolarStrong -- toward meeting its goal of powering 120,000 military housing units with clean, renewable (and safe) energy. 

If that goal is met, "this could effectively double the total number of residential solar rooftops in the U.S.," reports greentechmedia. SolarStrong will likely be the largest residential PV project in the U.S.

"This is uncharted territory for residential solar," SolarCity's CEO Lyndon Rive said in a statement. "The fact that SolarStrong can move forward without a federal loan guarantee is a clear indication that long-term incentives such as the investment tax credit are working."

It's also great news for an industry that continues to defy today's economy. The solar sector encompasses more than 100,000 American jobs. SolarCity in particular has added an average of more than one job each workday since 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

And another big winner in all this is the military, which has continually made headlines with its commitment to clean energy and innovation. For example, earlier this week the Air Force announced plans to dabble in "vehicle to grid" technology at Los Angeles Air Force Base and replace its vehicle fleet with EVs  -- which will then be used to feed power back into the grid during times of high energy usage. Considering the fact that the Department of Defense has a fleet of 200,000 cars, this is a great start. All of these signs suggest that the next few years will prove to be a turning point for the U.S. military's leadership in clean energy and transportation.

-- Brian Foley

Image courtesy SolarCity. 

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