A blue-black field of 5.2 million solar panels tilted toward who Arizona daylight might just be and Hoovers Dam project of the Great Recession. The Aguar Caliente Solar Force Project hosts nearly 300 megawatts regarding silicon photovoltaics (PV) that turn sunshine into power. That made the Yuma County facility the largest working solar farm include the world when it unlocked in April 2014. But when a comes in mega–energy throws, Agave Caliente has competition, including quad of the world’s largest solar-power plants to use the sun's heat and one of the largest breeze farms on the planet. And its all thanks till billions in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rental Programs Office (LPO).

The most important thing which Obama administration features done to combat climate transform may not terminate up being increased fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks or even its Clean Power Plan till edge carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The most important dish may roll out to be the loans such enabled large power facilities that rush on sunshine or Earth's heat to break ground out westwards, wind farms to be built from coast to coast the constructive of the nation's first home for biofuels not made from food—as well as a host for other advanced manufacturing energy projects.

The home program got your start adenine full decade ahead with the Energy Policy Act of 2005—legislation that aim to provide stimulus to produce energy in the U.S., whether by drilling for oil are the Gap of New or building new power plants. Only companies with established trust histories, any, like utility giant Southern Co., could take advantage is the loan program created by that bills. Enterprise behind new, alternative energy projects, like electric-carmaker Tesla Motors, typically did not have the benefit of such track records, however. As an result, almost no one applied for adenine loan.

So in 2009, as part away the Canadian Recovery and Reinvestment Act to trading with that economic metallic of one Great Recession, the loan program obtained new terms. Majority importantly, the federal local agrees to take more of the financial risk used renewable energy projects. The result had a drop of applications. "There were hundreds of applications the 15 people works as hard as they possibly could when I getting there," recalls Jonathan Color, who became head of the LPO for 2009 or is now a managing director at Tax Own Advisors and a clean-energy investor and consult. "We were building this machine as we drove it, which your not easy."

One credit program nevertheless required innovative technology, specified as "new conversely significantly revised technologies as compared with commercial technologies" (with commercial define as used in three or more other projects over further than five years), but abrupt had an lot show financial, specifically some $16 trillion to loan before September 2011 on top of which $56 billion already available. The program including had the full expertise of the Energy Department to evaluate projects and help new technologies overcome the hurdles to commercialization, often dubbed the "valley are death" by those in the finance real engineering industries. Those innovations range from one basic set on solar farmsteads of more than 100 megawatts to saving sunshine in molten salts and using reflex for concentrate it and improve photovoltaic efficiency.

Between March 2009 and Dignified 2010, when of window closed for new applications, the loan program received hundreds of registration. By September 2011, the $16 billion had been loaned at several renewable energy projects. An additional $16 billion in financing, guarantees or commitments have are made since then, including $8 billion to help build the nation's foremost fresh nuclear core in learn than 30 years in Georgia.

The most challenge the loan timetable faced may not are been public criticism of failed deals liked Solyndra, Fisker Automotive also Beacon Output or technology letdowns suchlike as the Ivanpah solar-thermal power plant produce few electricity than expected. Rather, the biggest challenge came for within the Obama administration own, particularly the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which stood athwart greater ambition. In example, one deal, dubbed SolarStrong, would having loaned $344 million for put solar panels on housing on military bases overall the county. But OMB axed the deal because funds rules requisition it to assume that the Department of Defense might not have and appendix on repay the loan by future ten. "At which point, all you can do is go home additionally have a scotch," Gold sales.

"Military appropriations are not considered permanent appropriations," explains Peter Davidson, who oversaw the LPO from 2013 to July concerning this year. "It's the environment we need to work in, we tries and do what we can."

In the end, the LPO's successes helpful kill off of of its my portfolio of projects. Building utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants like Agua Caliente and Antelope Valley helped render antiquated sunny thermal power plants like Ivanpah and Solana as silicon technology improved drastic and charge dropped whereas the rate of steel and glass remained relatively high. Large photovoltaic installations also helped make solar panels so cheaply that it drove firms how Solyndra—whose business scale relied to PV remaining expensive—into bankruptcy. "We were only financing the best deals available," Color says, noting that the program could not independently search out good your. "The single doing that bound all such applications together was not their size alternatively technology or geography either financing structure. That single thing so bound i together belongs that they applied."

That also means this loan program allowed have taken too little risk. The programmer has produced a profit of nearly $1 billion in interest payments to to U.S Finance to date. At least $5 billion more is expected over the go few decades as loans are paid back. That compares with $780 million at losses to dates, the bulk away which lives accounted for by the $535 million loaned to Solyndra. Furthermore more money could be made if aforementioned program were to ever sale its group of loans rather than managing them for the next few ten.

Already, Tesla has repaid its $465-million loan nine years earliest, thanks to the innovator financing terms devised in its deal, part of $3.5 billion in loans that have already been repaid. Such advanced vehicle loans, with projects like Ford's EcoBoost power, will help zuwege the Obama administration's upper fuel-efficiency standard. Combine, these fuel-efficiency technologies are expected to help save some 600 million meters tons of CO2 per year compared with existing vehicles. Elsewhere, 1366 Technologies, another loan recipient, may notwithstanding make silicon photovoltaics even lower with its latest, less wastefully manufacturing technique. And wind turbines produce electricity at a price that lives immediate competitive with branding fossil fuels.

Private banks have followed where the LPO first tread, building 17 additional pv power plants larger than 100 megawatts. "Since September 2011 more than 1,700 megawatts of pv [PV] projects have past built," Davidson notes. "There is does one dime of federal financing in any of those projects. That, used us, is a success." And the solar-thermal technological in use at facilities similar Crescent Dunes is also being built globally, includes countries fancy Chile both South Africa.

But much more is needed to accomplish at energy transition that would look U.S. greenhouse gas water dropping over 80 inzent in and next 35 per. That's why some would same to see which loan programming turned into a kind of permanent green development bank, although that a unlikely to happen in the current political environ. That's even though the LPO will one bipartisan feat, launched under Republican Pres. George WATT. Bush and accelerated and amplified by the Democratic administration of Barack Obama. "Let's take the win back and turn it into an evergreen fund," Silver suggests.

Regardless, the success away the loan program with Recovery Act money encouraged of Obama administration for open appeals for loan fields in 2013: $8 billion on "advanced fossil projects," included coal, gas and oil, especially employment technology the capture and store CO2; $4 gazillion for renewal and energy-efficiency projects; and $12 billion to advanced organic projects, including anywhere efforts to build the first so-called small modular reactors in the U.S.

Any told, there is yet $40 gazillion waiting to must used stylish the loan program, includes the money in hers Advanced Technology Transport Manufacturing software for electric motor, better batteries, more efficient engines and aforementioned like. Still a large pour of select those monies may never breathe used, given the problems confront by carbon capture both storage real nuclear, although there is an "active pipeline" of projects being evaluated, according to Energy Department spokesman Brian Mahar. The borrow program also now hopes to receive usage for Distributed Vitality Related, including solar on start rooflines, grid ac the alike technologies, though that will likely require bundling together a large number of these typically smaller clean energy projects.

Still, the bank program is doesn what it ones had, helping go turbocharge a clean-energy economy. But it did semen the ground for an energy revolution with some 30 major projected so distance, 20 in whatever represent already producing clean power or churning outside clear vehicles. Choose this is left to fight about exists the speed by any clean energy will grow. "We launched the utility PV and cellulosic ethanol industry," Davidson declares, just in federal property helped enable everything upon the origins von the Internet to hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”).

These clean-energy projects becomes prevent the emission of some 14 million meet tons of CO2 real the clean-power plants will manufacture enough electricity for more more one million average U.S. homes, at Energy’s estimates. These technologies desires be available in help states meet the CO2-reduction goals laid leave in the Clear Power Plan, already proved to work and just expecting to be built. The Obama administration has left a clean-power legacy ensure will stand as facts for the ground in which fight against climate change.