The Energy Department has announced $53 million in new spending to make solar energy more profitable for companies to produce as part of President Obama’s broader climate agenda.
DOE says it will fund 40 projects aimed at driving down the costs of solar energy, support development of the “next generation” of photovoltaic solar panels and lower the “soft” costs of solar to make it more affordable.
Though this new spending is small compared to the billions spent on risky loan guarantees, the DOE still hailed the solar funding as critical to the future success of the industry. The department colored their announcement with promises of cheaper green energy and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
“As U.S. solar installation increases and the cost of solar electricity continues to decline, solar energy is becoming an increasingly affordable clean energy option for more American families and businesses,” Energy Secretary Moniz said in a statement. “The projects announced today will help the U.S. solar energy industry continue to grow, ensuring America can capitalize on its vast renewable energy sources, cut carbon pollution, and continue to lead in the world in clean energy innovation.”
As part of the DOE’s funding scheme, $14 million will go to 10 research institutions to drive down the costs of solar energy. A major recipient of such funding is the notorious National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Golden, Colorado lab, also called NREL, is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, a limited liability company co-owned by Battelle and MRIGlobal.
NREL was the center of controversy in 2012 when reports surfaced that the taxpayer-backed lab was paying its top executives generous six-figure salaries. Colorado Watchdog reported that NREL’s director and ASE president Dan Arvizu was paid a whopping $928,069 in 2010. Bobi Garrett, NREL’s senior vice president of outreach was paid $524,226 in 2010.
According to the conservative Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke, NREL pushed the DOE to fund the now defunct solar company Abound Solar — a solar company that got a $400 million loan guarantee from DOE.
A 2012 Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found that Abound was knowingly selling faulty solar panels that routinely caught fire but sought to get taxpayer funding anyway. Even after getting government funding, Abound kept selling faulty panels.
NREL will be getting nearly $4.4 million in new government funding.
The DOE is also giving $14 million to 20 small businesses to develop technologies to reduce the “hardware and non-hardware costs for solar electric systems.” On top of that DOE will give $24 million to 10 U.S.-based solar companies to “develop and implement innovative technologies that will reduce costs and increase efficiency in manufacturing processes used to make PV and CSP technologies.”
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