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Obama Administration Finds New Way to Subsidize Solar Energy

Environment

Another flop?

After several failures in subsidizing green energy companies, the Obama administration is taking action to boost solar power in federally subsidized housing.

President Barack Obama is taking executive action to set a goal of installing 300 megawatts of solar power in public housing by 2020 and providing technical assistance to local governments to make solar easier to install, the White House announced Tuesday. That’s a sharp increase from the 100 megawatt goal set for 2020 in the administration’s 2013 Climate Action Plan. But the increase goal comes after already surpassing the initial goal and reaching 185 megawatts.

Image source: AP Photo/The Sentinel, Apolinar Fonseca (AP Photo/The Sentinel, Apolinar Fonseca)

The initiative involves the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Energy Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Energy Department is establishing a loan program called the National Community Solar Partnership that allows communities to establish neighborhood solar-power systems to provide energy to several housing units – instead of solar panels on individual units.

In more than 20 states, public housing authorities and utility companies are agreeing to 260 solar projects, largely to help low income residents, according to the White House. Further, the White House says there is another $520 million in state and local dollars and private investments boosting the initiative.

The District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington state are planning to devote millions in community solar projects.

The Federal Housing Administration is updating its second-mortgage program to allow homeowners to borrow up to $25,000 for solar and energy-efficient improvements.

White House spokesman Frank Benenati told TheBlaze there was no additional cost from the federal funds.

The Obama administration’s first term was filled with green energy embarrassments, notably the $500 million Energy Department loan to the California-based, solar-energy company, Solyndra. The department also made news for a $43 million loan to Massachusetts-based green energy firm Beacon Power. A Heritage Foundation review found 19 green energy firms – including wind, battery and electric car companies – that went bankrupt while others that had financial difficulties after federal government loans.

Still, the White House, in its announcement, asserted the executive actions and private investments will help make solar become a success.

“Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy,” the White House press release said. “And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent.”

This story was updated to clarify several green energy companies declared bankruptcy or had financial difficulties after receiving federal funds. 

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