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SolarStrong: Military Installations Help SolarCity Double Panel Use In The U.S.

The solar leasing company has inked a deal to put solar panels on the housing in military bases in 33 states.

SolarCity has had a big year, first with news that Google is creating a $280 million fund to finance its residential solar projects, and now with the announcement that it will double the amount of residential solar photovoltaic installations in the U.S.

As part of Project SolarStrong, SolarCity will team up with the biggest military housing-privatization developers--the housing companies that manage homes on military bases--in the U.S. to install, own, and maintain up to 160,000 rooftop solar installations on 124 military housing developments in 33 states. It's a move that will create over 371 megawatts of power and $1 billion in solar installations--and it may be the largest residential solar project ever.

SolarCity secured a partial guarantee of a $344 million loan from the DOE to finance the project, which has a "very low risk profile", according to SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, since the DOE guarantee only kicks in after solar systems have been installed and produce electricity. The deal is part of a DOE loan program that guarantees up to 80% of a loan from a private lender--in this case USRG Renewable Finance and Bank of America Merrill Lynch--for a renewable energy project.

The solar company has already begun work on a SolarStrong project at Hickam Communities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, where its installations will provide solar power to over 2,000 military homes. "It works similarly to any traditional homeowner. A system gets installed on the roof and produces electricity. If a person isn't there, it will backfeed the meter and build credits with the utility," explains Rive.

SolarCity expects to roll out the rest of the installations over the next five years. And this will, presumably, bring the Department of Defense closer to its goal of moving to over 25% renewable energy generation by 2025. "The military wants to adopt clean power, but they don't want to pay more for it," says Rive. "We needed to come up with a product or value offering that allowed them to save money and at the same time use clean energy."

[Image: Flickr user DVIDSHUB]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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