Opinion
(Courtesy of Abengoa Solar) (Courtesy of Abengoa Solar)  

Abengoa Solar: Obama’s green energy projects fail, even when they are successful

Photo of Marita Noon
Marita Noon
Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great
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      Marita Noon

      Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts have made Marita “America’s voice for energy.” Marita is also a columnist forTownhall.com and a regular contributor to many online commentary sites including Canada Free Press and NetRight Daily. Additionally her writing can be found in numerous newspapers and websites.

      Marita’s twentieth book, Energy Freedom, is her first in the current affairs genre. As a conservative commentator and energy expert, she is known as Marita Noon. Readers of Marita’s previous books, including best sellers, Wired That Way and Communication, know her as Marita Littauer. Prior to her work in energy, Marita was known as a motivational speaker and author. She has trained thousands of men and women in spoken and written communication.

After a public meeting on Tuesday, April 15 in Palm Desert, California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) will vote, on Wednesday, in Sacramento on whether or not to re-permit a 500-megawatt solar thermal project that has been on hold since December. At that time, the commission indicated that it would deny the proposed BrightSource Energy and Abengoa Solar project based on “visual impacts to a network of trails, petroglyphs and other tribal sites stretching across the desert in eastern Riverside County.”

Since December, the companies have done additional environmental impact studies and proposed mitigation. Apparently believing the votes are there, the companies have pushed for the commission to make a decision. Abengoa insiders have reported that the project is a go.

While the CEC is concerned about visual impacts, and local tribes worry about the project due to potential artifacts that may be present, American taxpayers should be opposed to the cronyism, abuse, mismanagement, and violations involved in one of the companies: Abengoa — which received $2.8 billion in taxpayer funding.

This report will expose one of the largest recipients of Obama’s green energy funding: Abengoa — which if not stopped, will get even more taxpayer dollars. On April 2, 2014, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, said: “the department would probably throw open the door for new applications for renewable energy project loan guarantees during the second quarter of this year.”

Here’s a taste of what you’ll learn about Abengoa and how it operates:

  • Crony-connected, Stimulus-funded, Spanish-owned company builds/opens solar generating station—currently producing electricity.
  • Brings foreigners to U.S. to fill jobs from welders to administration to engineers to management—often working on tourist visas for as long as 9 months.
  • Many Americans, who do have jobs on the project, get fired so expats can have the jobs.
  • Health insurance fraud committed by putting expats on plans when they are not on payroll (expats on tourist visas were paid out of accounts payable).
  • American vendors/contractors payments are intentionally delayed while U.S. taxpayer funds are in Spain collecting interest—$70 million owned to U.S. vendors.

On October 7, 2013, a giant concentrated-solar plant opened near Gila Bend, AZ. The $2 Billion Solana Generating Station has 32,320 mirrors on 1900 acres (equivalent to 1400 football fields) making it the world’s largest parabolic trough array with thermal storage. The 280 MW generating station is one of the first solar plants that can store thermal power for six hours. The stored thermal power can be used at night or on cloudy days to produce the steam that turns the turbines and creates electricity.

Solana was made possible because of the 2009 stimulus bill and the loan guarantees and grants made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Plant owner, Abengoa, reports that Solana’s construction employed 2,000 people.

When selling ARRA to the American public, the president said it would create jobs. Abengoa employees, who contributed to this report, were grateful for the jobs. They believed in green energy generally and the project specifically. But that was in the beginning when the sun was shining on Solana and its parent Abengoa.

With the green energy failures (32 failed and 22 circling the drain) being widely exposed by both the mainstream media, through shows like 60 Minutes, and Republicans, who point to the failures in order to embarrass President Obama and stop future green energy spending, one would think that Solana’s success would be something the White House would want to use for a major PR campaign — with pictures of a triumphant Obama cutting the ribbon splashed across the front page of every major newspaper. At the least, you’d expect an appearance by Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier, the White House had promised one or the other would be there, but neither was present for Solana’s October opening.

With the president’s penchant for photo ops, it seems mysterious that the official White House photographer wasn’t present to capture, and capitalize on, the moment.

Why wasn’t Obama waving to the cameras on October 7? Because even though Solana is a technical success, it is still an embarrassing failure. When the details in this report are exposed, as he must have known they inevitably would  be, he didn’t want to be anywhere near the project—because, as this report exposes, Solana would have never happened without direct intervention from the President.

Abengoa

Abengoa is a renewable energy company headquartered in Seville, Spain. Its U.S. division received approximately $2.8 billion in stimulus loans (five times more than Solyndra) for two large solar projects (Arizona, Solana — $1.45 billion; and California, Mojave — $1.2 Billion), as well as one biofuel project (Kansas, Hugoton — $132 million), plus $818 million in treasury grants.

In addition to the $2.8 billion, Abengoa companies received $150 million from the U.S. Export-Import Bank for green jobs overseas and, more recently, $2 million from the SunShot initiative.

At the time the stimulus bill was passed, Spain was in the midst of its own financial crisis. Credit wasn’t available and Abengoa’s stock value had dropped. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s March 2012 report states:

Abengoa’s prospects look dim due to its investments in Europe, particularly Spain, and suffer the risk of declining subsidies as Spain contends with its own declining credit quality and the potential need for a bailout of its own government in the coming months or years. Now that Germany and Spain cut back solar subsidies, this will undoubtedly harm the European renewable investments of Abengoa. Even if Abengoa investments initially appeared attractive to DOE, overinvestment in this single firm will likely cause substantial harm to the taxpayer.

The stimulus must have seemed like a lifesaver. Abengoa had the technological know how that the president’s green energy push needed — and the president was willing to pay for it. However, Abengoa had bad credit ratings from Fitch for each of the three projects the taxpayers funded: Solana — BB+; Mojave — BB; Hugoton—CCC. (Fitch describes the ratings this way: “BB: Speculative. ‘BB’ ratings indicate an elevated vulnerability to default risk, particularly in the event of adverse changes in business or economic conditions over time; however, business or financial flexibility exists which supports the servicing of financial commitments.” And “CCC: Substantial credit risk. Default is a real possibility.”)

While Abengoa didn’t have good credit, it did have, as Christine Lakatos has thoroughly documented, valuable connections.